It sounds impossible, but could the buyer of a flagship business publication with a circulation of more than 900,000 pay only $1?
Business Week magazine could net McGraw-Hill only eight bits, according to The Financial Times.
Business publishing is in steep decline, and print publishing in general is suffering. Prominent titles are paring back or ceasing to exist as print ventures. They have the value of their brands and loyal, core audiences, but are expensive to produce. Many publications have cut staff amid both revenue and circulation declines, and yet the public’s need for news it can use has not gone away.
What has gone away is the advertising dollar. Print publications, in particular, have lost their appeal as the conduits through which advertisers reach their audience. The advertisers themselves have their own websites and brand identities — and, in some cases, their own financial problems.
Advertisers are riding out the same recession that has affected the global community of readers and viewers. You aren’t spending as much money with them, and they aren’t communicating with you as often, perhaps particularly through traditional channels.
Magazine and newspaper readers (consumers) no longer have to wait for the morning paper or the weekly or monthly print review of what essentially is old news to find out about what’s on sale or what company has the best deal or most appealing product or presentation. A reader (consumer) can go straight to the websites of Staples or Best Buy or the stock report or specialty retailer whenever the spirit moves him.
Print’s battle to survive largely is a battle for relevance. The audience still loves the stories and the insights only professional publishers can deliver, but would rather get its news online. There simply is no need to wait for the morning paper or the weekly newsmagazine. It’s far easier to visit a website that offers news you can use and includes a link to information from advertisers you can use.
Business publishing got hit earlier and harder than others forms of print media. The print recession basically is in its fourth year. The decline affecting the general economy is a relative baby at about two years old. What happened in print in 2005 — especially business print — was an indicator of what would happen later in the general economy.
Unemployment in the United States has more than doubled in 16 months. The bleeding in print started long before that.
We wrote about this in January, with our reports about the pending death of the print version of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, one of America’s great newspapers.
So, today, we’ll again pose the question we posed months ago: Why haven’t the print publishers with famous brands, massive audiences and sparkling editorial content turned to the autosurf business model to save themselves?
Why haven’t the print brands that have equally famous website brands and millions of daily visitors turned to the surf model and started paying employees in “ad packs,” while passing off the cost off surfing redemptions to people who are told they can surf their way to riches?
It’s because the surf model is the province of hacks and pretenders and even criminals, some of whom will try to persuade you otherwise because the real product they are selling is not advertising; it is a Ponzi scheme. Most of them don’t even bother to create any type of editorial content. They know people will pay to play, with the insiders gorging themselves on illegal profits while sustaining the whole thing with a core deception, 80/20 programs, money-laundering and wire-fraud partners and a disclaimer that “rebates aren’t guaranteed.”
Here is how one AdSurfDaily promoter relying on corporate GIGO put it in February 2008:
“They have a former SEC attorney on staff as General Counsel. They are not a traditional Autosurf, they are an Advertising Company. They just added over 90 advertisers to increase revenue back to it’s members. Some of the advertisers include: Nike, Omaha Steaks, Petco, Starbucks, Delta airlines — just to name a few.”
Federal prosecutors seized tens of millions of dollars six months later.
“Ponzi scheme,” they said.
Business Week might end up selling itself for $1, but its soul will be intact upon the completed sale. It survived the Great Depression and economic downturns, and it figured out new ways to compete with the changing times and changing habits.
May it do so again.