Publishers Wake Up to Online Publishing

Last week, UK-based magazine publisher Haymarket Media added the New York-based weekly trade magazine and daily online site DMNews to its stable of business publications and websites. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The press release from the company was unremarkable except for its emphasis. The focus was clearly placed on acquiring, not the print publication. During the week when it was leaked that Dennis Publishing’s flagship magazines are in meltdown, could the publishing industry be finally waking from their five years in hibernation?
Once bitten, twice shy.
Publisher’s early forays into the world wide web left them with more bruises than ten rounds with Mike Tyson. Some have never recovered their belief and continue to hug trees.
The publishing industry is at its tipping point. Whilst the reports that print is dead are grossly exaggerated, the evidence clearly shows that it has passed over the hill.
What makes this most sad for an old hack like me is knowing that every publishing company has the skills, resources and expertise to become leaders in their subjects on the internet. If they were prepared to understand the differences between paper and pixels, embrace new trends like blogging, social networks and citizen journalism, they could prosper again.
Eagle, Ostrich or Dodo?
Will the publishing industry soar again? I hope so. Oh, how I hope so.
But I predict that the publishing gorillas will remain in their dwindling forests surrounded by trees, whilst the innovators will be the small, specialist publishers that weren’t around when Mike Tyson chewed the ear off the industry so it stopped listening.
Content and brand will continue to be traffic magnets. Publishers have both. If they would just focus as much time on transferring them to the web as they spend talking to their lawyers about DRM, they could at least get off the ground.
As the old saying goes, there are those that make things happen, those that watch things happen and those that wonder what happened.
Organic Growth or Acquisition
What I suspect will happen is the small, agile publishers will start to aggressively launch niche websites. Once they have traction and clear segment ownership, the big boys will put a cheque in the post and welcome them into their family.
This has already started to happen.
Whilst the $100m+ deals make the news, like EMAP’s acquisition of and the FT’s purchase of, the wiser publishers have been quietly building their internet portfolios below the radar.
Notably, two weeks ago, DMG announced the launch of their hundredth website. Likewise, Haymarket’s recent acquisitions show their clear intent.
Is acquisition the right strategy? Right now, I would say that any activity that gets more web skills into publishing companies is a step in the right direction.
Let’s just hope it’s not too little too late.