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B2B print still important revenue, but publishers offering more digital: survey finds

More than half of B2B print media editors feel that the COVID-19 pandemic has hastened their move toward digital content, but the majority plan to keep their print magazine for the foreseeable future, according to an international survey of B2B magazine editors.

More than half of B2B print media editors feel that the COVID-19 pandemic has hastened their move toward digital content, but the majority plan to keep their print magazine for the foreseeable future, according to an international survey. 

Nearly half (41.3 per cent) of B2B publishers feel that the COVID-19 pandemic has hastened their move toward digital content, according to a survey by The Association of Business Publications International (TABPI).

But slightly more than half of the editors surveyed didn’t see the pandemic changing things away from print, with many noting that their readers and advertisers continue to prefer the paper version. In these cases, editors said that they would continue to provide both digital and print options for their brand for the foreseeable future. 

“As long as advertisers want to advertise in our print publication and readers want to receive it that way, we will continue our magazine in print,” said Tina Filipski, Director of Publications/Editor, Promotional Products Business (PPB) magazine, based in the US.

Keeping audiences engaged using digital media 

B2B publishers are using digital content to keep their audience engaged in between editions of their magazines. 

The UK’s Foodservice Consultant Editor Tina Nielsen said “Our print magazine is quarterly, so we have to do more digital content in order to keep up-to-the-minute with developments in the sector we cover. We are also doing many more virtual roundtable discussions, panel sessions and interviews that would previously have been done in person and printed.”

Nadia Howland from Australian B2B publisher The Magazine Publishing Company (TMPC) said “The pandemic hasn’t affected us too much because most of the industries we cover were deemed essential services, so most of our readers are still working and some busier than ever. It’s made our job of finding and showcasing exceptional people and projects much easier, in some respects.” 

B2B clients demanding digital options 

US-based publication Civil Engineering magazine attributed market forces to the move to digital. 

Laurie Shuster, Editor in Chief of Civil Engineering magazine, said: “Advertisers are fine with having a print platform, but they also demand a strong website, e-newsletters, social media options, and conference sponsorships — all in one package. Our audience is probably not yet ready to go all-digital, but advertisers probably are.”

Another editor explained that their company is moving more definitively towards digital, “but my publication’s experience is still that the main revenue comes from print, so while we are exploring digital avenues in earnest, we have not moved away from our print offering in any significant way. This may, however, change in time.”

Bob Trebilcock, Editorial Director, Supply Chain Management Review (US), noted that they have not changed the number of print titles; the frequency of publication; the number of articles and columns in an issue; or the number of copies they distribute. But they are increasing the number of digital marketing products on offer to satisfy advertiser interest. 

TABPI found that B2B publishers who are reducing the circulation or number of their print titles mentioned environmental issues and international reader shipping costs pushing more magazines to move away from print.

“We’re investing more in video, building new microsites and revamping our general digital experience,” said Keith Gribbins, editor/publisher, Craft Brewing Business and Compact Equipment (US). 

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