Specialist publishers lead the way in digital media; still bullish on print

Early results from a survey of specialist media businesses show that independent publishers are actively experimenting with digital, but believe printed magazines will be around for the next decade.  The InPublishing/Specialist Media Show research polled the views of around 200 specialist publishers on paid online content, live events, apps, digital editions and social media.  It measured what they were doing right now, and what their plans were for the next 2 years to extend their media brands across print, events and digital.  The respondents were primarily MDs and publishers in consumer and b2b specialist markets, typically under £10m turnover.  However, what they lacked in resources they are making up in ambition  and innovation.  Confidence is good, with an attitude of experimentation that more mainstream media businesses would do well to watch.  Here’s the highlights of their digital expansion:

  • 34% are charging for online content now – and another 15% have plans to do so in the next two years
  • One-third of those can charge several hundred pounds for annual subscriptions
  • 16% already charge for web-based digital editions, and a further 12% bundle with a print subscription
  • 22% already have a mobile app or are about to launch – a further 15% plan a launch in the next year.  Business models are split between sponsored and paid, with lots of testing in process
  • 34% plan a digital archive – either subs-driven or ad-funded
  • 42% are planning a tablet edition
  • 53% are planning to add video content
  • New innovative online services are also being considered for the next two years: 70% are considering running online networking services, 63% webinars, 53% virtual events and 39% distance learning

It’s not all digital, though, as over half have plans to run live events – consumer or b2b – in the next 2 years.

And intriguingly, they are bullish on the prospects for print, with 85% expecting consumer magazines to be in print beyond 2020, with specialist consumer titles the most resilient.  However, 42% expect all printed business magazines to be subs only within 5 years.

The survey is backed by InPublishing, PPA, University of Leicester and Wessenden Marketing.  It was carried out by eDigitalResearch.  Mores results coming soon.

Are you a specialist publisher? Do you agree with these findings?  Please comment below, or join the Specialist Media Network on Linked-in and swap ideas with over 500 other specialist media professionals.

Register to attend the Specialist Media Show on 25 May 2011 for a day of inspiration and ideas, meeting other specialist media professionals.

Jim Bilton, MD of Wessenden Marketing, and Prof Barrie Gunter, of the Department of Media and Communication at University of Leicester, will draw comparisons with other surveys of media owners, and present the full results at the conference taking place alongside the show.  Delegates will receive a full report on the research.

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About the author: Carolyn Morgan runs Penmaen Media, who create practical digital media and marketing strategies for media businesses.  Carolyn also runs the Specialist Media Show – taking place on 25 May 2011 – an exhibition, workshop programme and conference for specialist media owners.