B2B publishers 'feeling effects of downturn'

Business to business publishers are already feeling the effects of the economic downturn in certain sectors, according to a panel of chief executives at the Periodical Publishers Conference in London yesterday.

Amanda Barnes, chief executive of Faversham House Group which has titles in home improvement and construction, said the group had just had its first advertisers cancel a deal because it was feeling the affects of the downturn. She said it would be felt by the end of this year and into 2009. “It will depend on how it affects customers business.But I can’t see how it won’t affect us.”

Tim Weller, CEO of Incisive Media whose main brands are in the financial markets, said that with financial gloom on the horizon, publishers should look to where the revenue is and divert business to that.

“We will come out of a downturn stronger but have to get our heads out of the sand because it is going to be tough,” he said.

Martin Durham, chairman of Haymarket Business Media, said his company would not be threatened by dangers likely to be experienced by those close to the financial markets. He said he expected Haymarket’s broad portfolio to be resilient but raised concerns for the public service industries, which would suffer revenue declines and pass on the negative effects.

CMP Information’s Jonathan Newby, who is managing director of its building portfolio, said the company had a worldwide base so was less threatened by UK and US based downturns. He said recruitment revenue was down in the UK and the commercial properties market was also under pressure.

Charles Reed, group managing director of William Reed Business Media, which owns pub trade title the Morning Advertiser and Drinks International, said: “In the drinks area, alcohol is the new tobacco, everything been done to persuade us to drink less which is not good for our business.” He said recruitment online remained “a big challenge”.

The panel was also asked about the future of print magazines in their respective portfolios.

Informa chief executive David Gilbertson warned against negating the role of the magazine. He said: “We are in danger of losing confidence in magazines as an industry. The magazine proposition is a strong one. The world is drowned out by noise, news in a variety different of media and [it has] encouraged people to think news is not important.”

But he said the hard copy magazine had a strong niche and that the dangers lay in not thinking how best to ally it with a digital presence or turning the online product into something it’s not. ” We don’t need to necessarily turn ourselves in news agencies,” he said.

Incisive’s Weller predicted further print growth but perhaps not next year. Reed admitted there would continue to be closures in his company and others’ portfolios.

One of the biggest B2B publishers, Reed Business Information was not represented on the panel. RBI has been put up for sale by its parent company Reed Elsevier and its progess would be an indicator of how strong the market is generally, according to one chief executive.

Bernard Gray, the chief executive of TSL, said: “The elephant in the room is RBI. It’s not going to trade at the value that Emap traded at last year. There’s a significant chance nothing is going to happen to it.”

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