To say that the business press has a certain affinity with its
electronic press partner doesn’t go nearly far enough. However, for all
the obvious attraction, it is a relationship that still has to be
It’s as if the pair have moved swiftly past a few casual dates at the
pictures, taken in a couple of intimate meals and then promptly fast
forwarded to the state of mutual bafflement in which they currently
But then it’s not difficult to see why the business press initially
embraced on-line publishing with such alacrity. The Internet, after all,
appears to be the one true broadcast medium with all the narrowcast
advantages thrown in. Publishers can find a mass-market audience and
still know the identity of all the people they are reaching.
For a business press publisher that is sitting on masses of specialised
information and rationing it out to its named database, the Internet
should, in theory, offer the chance to broaden the target market without
losing any control over the quality of the audience. In other words, it
offers the best of both worlds.
’We saw two main attractions of electronic publishing,’ Robin Wood, the
director of Miller Freeman electronic publishing, explains. ’ First, we
could improve communications with our existing readership base. By
posting archival information and background that won’t fit into the
printed version because of lack of space, we can strengthen our
relationship with existing readers.
’Second, as a predominately controlled circulation publisher, we operate
the 80/20 rule; that is, the bulk of our circulation goes to the
minority of our potential audience that spends the most. The Internet
should offer a low-cost way of broadening your customer base, not least
Certainly, Wood’s confidence in the potential of the Internet is shared
widely. According to a report released at the end of last year by First
Magazine Marketing, more than three-quarters of the magazine publishers
it surveyed viewed electronic publishing as a crucial factor for their
long-term survival. Already 43 per cent of the publications canvassed in
the worldwide survey marketed their publications online and 41 per cent
published information online. The most telling data of all showed that
only 4 per cent of respondents had no plans at all to incorporate the
Internet into their eventual publishing or marketing plans.
But it is only recently that this confidence in what the Internet might
be able to achieve for business magazine brands has been replaced by
real evidence of what it can actually achieve.
’A year ago we did the same thing as everyone else and put some
slimmed-down versions of our biggest titles on the Internet,’ Steve
Malone, the associate publisher of the Ziff-Davis title, Computer Life,
explains, ’but basically all we were doing was saying ’hello’ and not
really creating something different or exciting for advertisers. Now
everyone has moved on and online services are starting to take on a life
of their own, such as featuring unique material.
’Here we have moved from the concept of magazines on the Web towards the
idea of ’channels’ - which seems to be this year’s buzzword in the
business press. It means that our one central Website is divided by area
of interest rather than by magazine.’
This approach means that browsers of zdnet do not have to wade through
the news sections of each of four Ziff-Davis magazines that are branded
on the site. There is just one news section, which is culled from the
best news from four magazines. The same system applies to product
reviews and other subjects throughout the site. The system encourages
browsing and helps to cross-promote the various titles.
This approach also makes more sense for advertisers. So far, online
magazines have offered advertisers three main routes - sponsorship,
banner ads on individual pages and recruitment advertising. The majority
of business press publishers believe the most scope for growth lies in
the last two categories.
The classified sector, which can be responsible for 80 per cent of
business press revenue, is already an important source of online revenue
and it is expanding rapidly. However, what is really exciting is the
progress made by banner ads. These work like conventional press ads but
they allow advertisers to encourage users to click on their ad and be
transported to the advertiser’s own site. In practice, this works rather
like direct mail - because it is so hard to encourage users to explore
advertisers’ sites, Ziff-Davis reckons there is a hit rate of the order
of 2 or 3 per cent.
But this whole sector is starting to take off as professionally run
sales houses start to package up Websites into advertiser-friendly
chunks. The best example of this came with the decision made by the
television airtime sales house, TSMS, to launch a series of Internet
audience packages earlier this month. The house bundled together
Internet sites with a common demographic to make it easier for ad
agencies to reach target audiences and to encourage them to start using
electronic publishing as a part of a complete advertising campaign,
rather than as a one-off. It has already started to happen with
companies such as Levi’s, which included Miller Freeman’s dotmusic site
in its media mix, a move that is likely to open the floodgates.
’What we have been able to do with dotmusic is to broaden a site, which
is the vehicle for all trade music magazines, to a wider consumer
market,’ Chris Sice, the commercial manager of dotmusic, explains. ’We
have attracted advertisers like Levi’s that wouldn’t usually go in our
printed magazine and use dotmusic as a vehicle to sell CDs around the
Its not a huge business - Miller Freeman has clocked up sales of around
8,000 in the four months the scheme has been running - but it is hard
evidence of the existence of new revenue streams which, after all, is
what this persistent courtship of the Internet by business press
publishers should be about.