Monday, January 31, 2005

Getting rich in B2B

In our little corner of the journalism world, no one has had more success than Pat McGovern. And no one in any corner of journalism has been more modest about it. Media moguls are noted for boorish, piggish, spotlight-grabbing behaviors. But McGovern, founder and chief executive officer of IDG, has a reputation not only for brilliance, but for modesty. (Click here and scroll down the page for a little about his reclusive nature.)
So when I heard that McGovern won the Henry Johnson Fisher award from the Magazine Publishers of America, I applauded.
The Philadelphia-born McGovern has built a $2 billion fortune in trade journalism. And he's produced some of the most influential titles in the game.
So where does billionaire McGovern suggest that mere thousandaire journalists such as us look for wealth and prestige? Overseas.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Mold magazine

Key Communications, a B2B publisher in Garrisonville, VA, is launching a magazine for the building trade called "Mold and Moisture Management."
I'll try not to be snide about the press release, which says the controlled-circulation publication "debuted to excellent reviews." Public-relations writing is supposed to be a bit over-the-top.
Journalism writing is supposed to be something else entirely. And I trust that the all-woman editorial staff at Mold has the skill to create a magazine free of hyperbole.
Mold joins other Key publications such as USGlass and Shelter.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Vance sells three titles

Vance Publishing, a family-owned B2B company based in Lincolnshire, Ill., plans to sell three of its agricultural magazines. Vance has put Cotton Farming, Rice Farming and The Peanut Grower on the auction block as part of a plan to reorganize the company.
Under the new structure, Vance's agricultural holdings will be split between two units, both based at Vance's offices in the Kansas City suburb of Lenexa, KS. The Packer newspaper, where I was once a senior writer, Produce Merchandising magazine and related products will make up the produce unit. A second unit will consist of animal-food publications including Pork. Other Vance publications such as Modern Salon and Closets are unaffected by the change.

Neal Award finalists

American Business Media has released the list of finalists for this year's Neal Awards. IDG picked up the most nominations -- 10. VNU Business received nine. My former employer, Primedia Business, is in a three-way tie for fourth place with six finalists.
I'm particularly pleased to see Registered Rep magazine get a nod for Best Single Issue of a magazine. I was at Primedia when Geoff Lewis overhauled that book from top to bottom. He and his staff created a top-tier publication from an embarrassing, albeit profitable, magazine aimed at the low end of the investment sales business.
I'm shocked to see that Variety is a finalist for Best Web Site. Doesn't anyone at ABM ever visit that site? It's a mess of cluttered design and poor taxonomy. And it crashes more than any other B2B site I visit. If you're working on a Web site, ignore Variety and take a look at the Eyetrack study.
Check out the full list of Neal Award finalists here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Ask for that pay raise

It may be a good time to ask for that pay raise. B2B ad pages rose 3.7% in November as compared with a year earlier. Advertising revenue increased 7% in the same period, according to a Business Information Network report released by American Business Media.
Take a look at the breakdown. If your niche did well, hit up the boss for some more cash.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Douglas buys Briefings Group

Douglas Publications, owner of B2B magazines such as American Painting Contractor, has purchased the Briefings Publishing Group from Wicks Business Information.
Given that Briefings has its office in Alexandria, Va., and that Douglas's headquarters are in Richmond, Va., there's likely to be some worry about job loss at the Briefings Group.
But Douglas says it intends to keep the Alexandria office.
Smart folks at the Briefings Group may want to try and transfer to a new job at Wicks's headquarters in Fairfield. That little Connecticut village on the Atlantic coastline has two colleges, a cute downtown and one of my favorite coffeeshops in the Northeast.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Feeling OK?

A new study confirms what most of us have known for a long time. Practicing journalism is bad for your health. The Chinese Physician's Association studied 1,182 reporters in Beijing and found that only 28 of them were healthy. The most common ailment was chronic exhaustion, which was reported by 84.2% of the research subjects.
Now things may be worse in China, but there's no denying that bad health is common among journalists around the world. Take a look around your newsroom, and note how many folks are obese, reek of cigarettes or appear to suffer from a stress-related mental health issue.
The problem may be that a reckless disregard for health is part of the journalist persona. Nowadays I practice yoga. I don't drink or smoke. But I first fell in love with this industry when I saw the borderline depravity of the Boston Globe's newsroom in the early 1970s. I was just a kid, but there was something about the chain-smoking, wise-cracking men, bent over their typewriters, complaining about hangovers and local politicians, that I found compelling.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Exec resurfaces

Dan Ramella, who was pushed out of his job as president of Penton Media in a corporate restructuring last summer, has launched a new company and a new trade magazine. Harbor Communications will publish Club & Resort Business, a monthly B2b title for golf club management. Ramella's new company is based in the Cleveland area, just like Penton. So expect a lot of raiding of quality Penton employees.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Ethics hotline

I've heard it argued...and argued effectively...that journalists in the specialized press face more ethical pressure than do mainstream journalists. Many B2B publications are dependent on a small group of advertisers, and some B2B publishers have difficulty separating editorial and advertising functions.
When you find yourself in the middle of an ethical debate -- and any good journalist will at least once in his career -- there's a new place to turn for help.
The Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists is run by two media organizations and The Center for Ethics and Social Justice at Loyola University Chicago. Given that I'm a journalist, and a Jesuit-educated one at that, it's no wonder that I'm thrilled by this idea.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Ex -Primedia exec

There goes another one. Tom Fogarty, vice president of production for Primedia Business, is joining Ascend Media, the Kansas-based company founded by ex-Primedia executives.
It's become an increasingly familiar story in the B2B world. As Primedia, where I was once vice president for online content, deteriorated, it fired staff and sold off properties to pay down its enormous debt load. Companies like Ascend and M10 -- founded by exiled Primedia folks took advantage by buying up their old magazines and raiding Primedia for talent.
It's a story that will brighten the day of anyone who has ever been laid off.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Another rename

Advanstar's Video Store Magazine is changing its name to Home Media Retailing. The new title is designed to reflect changes in the industry it covers -- a business where DVD rental companies like Netflix and the video-on-demand services offered by cable providers are displacing the local video store.
Is a similar name change expected for Reed's Video Business?
Video Store Magazine is also changing the name of its web site. Thank god. The publication may have had the worst domain name in the B2B world --

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Folio: in Chicago

Folio:, another former Primedia Business property that was bought by former Primedia Business executives, is hosting an Entrepreneurial Publishing Summit in Chicago for folks who want to "grow their magazines and their careers."
Although I was lucky enough to speak at the giant Folio Show in New York in November, I won't be able to attend the Chicago event. But even without me, this promises to be interesting for anyone in the B2B world.
And some of the bigger names in trade journalism will be there. Check out the brochure.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

International B2B

I expect we'll see a lot more of this sort of thing. Reed Business plans to launch what it calls "a Chinese edition" of "TWICE, This Week In Consumer Electronics," a B2B newspaper for retail operators.
It's unclear what Reed means by a "Chinese edition." Will it be written in English for a U.S. audience? Or in Chinese for readers overseas? Will it be distributed in the U.S.? China? Elsewhere?
Regardless, trade journalists can expect growing demand for news of interest to both China-based exporters and U.S. -based importers.
And those of us who like to think ahead -- and think positively -- will be planning trade publications that cover business in Cuba, Iraq and Palestine.

Monday, January 10, 2005


There are few things as exciting in our business as the launch of a new publication. If you've been lucky enough to be around for those first few days when a product debuts, you know what I mean. For journalists, it's a chance to recapture some of the joy of those early days in our career when things were new and our potential seemed limitless.
Folio magazine's cover piece this month is Startup Stories, a look at the "opportunities and challeges" faced by six new magazines. Among the featured publications are B2B magazines covering the restauarant, security and energy industries.

Friday, January 07, 2005

B2B junk mail

According to the junk mail I received today, I've been "chosen for a marketing test" by Successful Farming magazine. Under the terms of this test, I get a free two-year subscription to the agrarian monthly if I pay for a one-year subscription.
What is Meredith thinking?
Wouldn't most folks in the direct-mail game know it's a waste of time to send a pitch for a farming magazine to a fourth-floor apartment in Brooklyn?
Maybe these guys should read this interview with Rhonda Hughes of Advanstar.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

New trade pub

Helmers Publishing, which owns Supply Chain Systems, has launched a new magazine called Chief Supply Chain Officer. I wish Helmers luck. But I worry that logistics may be the most overcovered area in trade journalism. First and foremost there's the Journal of Commerce, founded by Samuel Morse, inventor of Morse Code. When I was Midwest Bureau Chief for the JoC, it was daily newspaper with offices around the globe. Now it's a tiny weekly magazine -- hurt by competition online and in print. Reed publishes Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review. Cyngus has Food Logistics. Primedia Business has related magazines such as Fleet Owner and Modern Bulk Transporter.
These are just a handful of publications that pop to mind. There's dozens more in this space, so you have to worry that the market is more than a wee bit crowded.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Editorial directors

One of my favorite developments in our industry is the emergence of the editorial director. Back when I started this game, there was little room for a trade journalist to advance once he'd become editor-in-chief of his publication. And since many talented people reach that level quickly in the trade press, challenges can be hard to find in the later years.
But now publishers have embraced the idea of an editorial director -- a more seasoned, editorial executive to oversee content at a number of publications. It's a great idea that benefits readers and staff.
For example, check out the background of Thomas Andel. The 25-year publishing veteran has been named editorial director of Advanstar's Paperboard Packaging magazine, Official Board Markets magazine and boxbiz, an electronic newsletter.

More on Publishers Weekly

It looks like the recent hiring of Sara Nelson to run Publishers Weekly may not have begun as smoothly as Reed Business would have liked. But I suspect the N.Y. Times is making more of these early missteps than is needed.
Far more interesting is Nelson's belief that the difference between trade magazines and consumer magazines is blurring. And Nelson sees opportunity by aiming Publishers Weekly at book professionals and book fans alike. "There is a crossover population that we should be able to add to the mix," she said. That may prove to be a great idea.
There are precedents for this B2B/B2C hybid. Advertising Age has always had a small number of non-professional readers. But the giant in this space would have to be Trains magazine, which exists first and foremost to serve that peculiar breed of industry aficionado -- the rail fan.
Publishers Weekly has no time to waste. New competition has arrived from VNU.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

NYU's B2B course

Those of us on the editorial side of publishing sometimes don't have the clearest picture of how things operate on the business side. If you've ever wanted to learn more...or if you hope to land a promotion to management...then consider taking this one-day course at New York University.
NYU's "Business of Business-to-Business Publishing" course promises to explain controlled circulation and advertising sales to the uninitiated.
The course also promises to explain how trade magazines differ from consumer magazines in "substantive ways" including "editorial content." That worries me. Look: There are obvious differences between the two styles of writing. For example, most B2B writers use industry jargon with abandon (a practice I abhor, by the way.) But when I hear claims that the differences are "substantive" -- ("We're not the Wall Street Journal, you know.") -- it's usually part of an argument that trade magazines not be held to the same standards as the mainstream press.
And I will always object to such arguments.

VNU Business gets editorial chief

VNU Business Media has named Sid Holt as editorial director. In the newly created position, Holt will be the chief strategist for 52 of the company's B2B titles. It's hard to say what Holt intends to do. I don't know him. He most recently served as executive vice president and editor in chief of VNU's Adweek, and I'm a fan of that product. He also oversaw the relaunch of Editor & Publisher, which marked a huge improvement.
At the top of my list of suggestions for Sid -- do something about the VNU websites! seems to crash nearly every time I visit it. Mediaweek seems unfocused, terribly understaffed, and operates on some sort of strange late-in-the-day deadline. is so very uninteresting compared with Brandchannel, one of the prettiest sites on the Web.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Reed hire

Speaking of Reed Business, the company has hired New York Post publishing editor Sara Nelson as editor in chief of Publishers Weekly, the bible of the book-publishing world. Check out her background as described in this press release. She's worked at the New York Observer and Glamour magazine, done some television work, and is married to the production designer of Saturday Night Live. She has the sort of varied background that I love to see in a top editorial executive.

Name change

Reed Business Information, the largest B2B publisher in the U.S., says it has renamed one of its trade magazines. MSI magazine, which covers the IT industry, will be now called Manufacturing Business Technology. Reed says the name change will "better identify the publication's subject matter."
Perhaps someone at Reed can explain why Manufacturing Business Technology's too-cluttered website was still urging people today to subscribe to MSI.
What I hear from folks at Reed is that the company continues to struggle with technology issues. That's surprising to me, given that Reed owns eLogic, one of my favorite content-management systems.

Blog history, part 2

Speak of the devil...Dan Gillmor, the man who has done more than any other to bring participatory journalism to the attention of the mainstream press, has bid farewell to his job in print media. He's also set up his new blog on grassroots journalism. Yesterday's post refers to the remarkable experiment in citizen journalism being conducted by the Greensboro News & Record. I'll be looking for more of Dan's historical analysis of by-the-people journalism. I'll also be looking to see if he shares my belief that the movement is about to shift away from "broadcast" issues -- politics, sports, celebrities -- and shift toward the "narrowcast" fields dominated by the trade press.