As I’ve mentioned before: despite the digital evolution of media, a positive story in one of the incumbent business outlets (Forbes, Fortune, BusinessWeek, etc.) can still provide major value to companies (at least for now).
However, over the last six months these magazines have seen their ad pages vanish quicker than Alex Rodriguez in October. They’re also seeing massive turnover. Talking Biz News reported over the weekend that 250 business journalism jobs have been lost in 2009 to date (A lot of those coming with the folding of Portfolio). Short story: business outlets and business journalism are being transformed by the “media meltdown.”
The latest findings, from the Magazine Publishers of America, noted that ad pages were down across the board for business magazines Jan – March 2009:
- BusinessWeek – Down 39%
- Fortune – Down 26%
- Forbes – Down 15%
What does this mean to companies looking to get in the editorial pages? Less ad pages means less editorial pages for writers and editors to fill up. It also means (although no one would ever admit it) that large companies with advertising budgets are getting even more of the ear of writers and editors. Yes, there is still a wall between church and state (advertising vs. editorial), but there’s no doubt parts of it are crumbling down.
While their pages vanish, so does some of their readership. Not one of the aforementioned publications reaches over 1 million print subscribers (End of 2008 data) and their online sites compete with established online outlets and new up-and-comers.
- BusinessWeek: 898, 546 print circulation; 3.3 million unique views per month according to ComScore (Compete.com reports 5 million UV’s)
- Fortune: 831, 485 print circulation; 5.9 million UV’s per month through CNNMoney.com according to ComScore
- Forbes 890, 882 print circulation; 4.6 million UV’s per month according to ComScore
How does that compare with online competitors? While ComScore actually has thestreet.com tallying more unique views than Businessweek.com per month, Compete.com has businessweek.com still outpacing thestreet.com (embedded above). Other up-and-coming sites like thebigmoney.com and businessinsider.com tally 260, 295 and 911,373 respectively in UV’s per month according to Compete.
While the disconnect in the numbers from ComScore and Compete makes it hard to validate any of this, no one will argue that free-based, online business outlets are growing in readership, while print business outlets are being forced to shift their content online to a similar-sized audience.
So what does this mean to PR folk pitching client business stories? Do your research and educate your clients on today’s business media landscape. While the big name publications from the early 1900’s still carry clout, they don’t necessarily have the impact / reach that they used to have. The biggest upside in landing a story there may be that other journalists (excluding generation Y’ers) still look up to them; and may be inclined to follow their lead with future stories / follow-ups.