Friday, April 18, 2008

Where can "print" reporters go?

A few days ago I wrote a piece for this blog about the financial crisis in B2B publishing. I said that much of the industry had become "weighed down by the twin albatrosses of junk bonds and rising print costs." And I suggested that the "editors, salespeople and designers of B2B... walk away from print."

A reader of that post wrote a comment asking "where -- specifically -- would you suggest B2B writers/editors look for jobs in the digital world? I'm curious if there are even places for all those thousands of print-based folks to go?" And over at Folio magazine, where my blog is republished, a reader asked "But where do we go, especially in this economy? It's easy to say -- not easy to do."

Those are legitimate questions. And I'll do my best to answer them. But be warned -- plenty of folks in B2B publishing won't like what I have to say.

The unwanted
First, the bad news.
As fast as the world of Web journalism is growing, no "print" journalist should assume that there's a place for him in the new world. The truth is that there are not "places for all those thousands of print-based folks to go." And don't kid yourself -- we are talking about thousands of displaced journalists. The newspaper industry alone has lost 10,000 jobs in recent months. I'd put the number of lost jobs in B2B at about half of that in the past 12 months. And all across the media world, the bad news just keeps coming.
(Here's a quick quiz. What is the largest business media company and the world, and what does it mean for the job market? Answer: It's these guys: a brand new company, created by merger, which is expected to soon lay off thousands of the most talented business journalists on earth, turning an already saturated market into something even tougher.)
But the worse news for print-based journalists is that much of the Web journalism world wants nothing to do with them.
What print journalists don't seem to understand is that:
a) A lot of Web folks are pretty tired of print folks. Nearly everyone who works in Web-only or Web-first journalism came from a print background. And for years they toiled in places where the online world was treated with disdain. Then, as Web journalism took off, the online staff found themselves in an all-new form of hell. Every day was filled with the whining, complaining and resentments of the print staff. I assure you -- the Web journalists who have managed to escape that scene are not eager to start hiring the same moaning characters they left behind. The big secret of Web journalism is that it's fun. And we don't want anyone to spoil that.
b) A lot of Web folks think print folks are kind of lazy and stupid. Every Web journalist on earth has put in the time to learn how to be a Web journalist. No one taught it to them. They taught themselves. They put in the extra hours, took courses, read books, talked to smart people and looked for answers. And they did all that because they knew that Web journalism was important. Print journalists, on the other hand, tend to think that they themselves are important. They're the sorts of people who, even as their publications collapse around them, think the boss should invest in training them in the new skills. Web folks don't want to hire anyone like that. Because Web journalists know that six months from now when something new comes around the print guy is going to be demanding more training.

A place where print is valued

Now, the good news.
Although I think it's a very good idea to walk away from the print side of B2B publishing, there is one possible exception. And for print journalists who either can't or won't become part of Web culture, it offers a haven.
It's a media sector that is growing like crazy and where print journalism skills are still highly valued. New media skills are valued there too. In fact, they are valued more highly, as they should be. But print has a strong role. And there is growth.
So it's time to consider a career in content marketing (my apologies to Rex, who hates that term)
The key to understanding content marketing (or branded media, custom publishing, or any of the other terms used to describe the sector) is that it generally does not require the content to pay for itself. Rather, the content is used to spread a branding message or serve a community. Perhaps the most recognized forms of content marketing are the airline magazines in the seat-back cover or the alumni magazine that many of us get from the colleges we attended. In content marketing, a magazine isn't a business, it supports a business. In content marketing, a newspaper doesn't make a profit, it supports a nonprofit. In content marketing, a newsletter isn't a way to monetize readers, it's a way to communicate with customers.
And in B2B, the sector is growing more important. Earlier this week, Junta42 and BtoB magazine released a report showing that B2B marketers are spending nearly one-third of their total budgets on content marketing.
Take a look at the report here. Make note that the most popular products in the space are Web and electronic. But note too that marketers are producing print newsletters, magazines and other traditional products.
If I were a print-based, B2B journalist, I'd be watching that sector for opportunities.

(Disclosure: I offer content marketing services through my business. And although I work on print products, I specialize in Web and other electronic products. I'm not hiring print staffers at this time.)

For more on the world of content marketing, check out this article in Folio.

tags: , , , , , , , content marketing

2 comments:

  1. This was a fun read!
    I'm going to forward it to people who will get angry about it :)

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  2. I started in print in 1994 -- but I started with technology in 1984 -- so I'm one of the lucky few who didn't need to re-learn the job. I was using technology from day one.

    That said, you're two points about web journalists is absolutely correct. Having run built and run an online operation -- I can say that last thing I wanted was a traditional journalist.

    I wanted a web journalist.

    Great post.

    Brad
    The Modern Journalist

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