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Difficult times for business publications

August, 2020

The demise of a publication that for many years was an integral part of the regional business community gives Andrew Metcalf, a director at Kent PR and marketing agency Maxim, cause to reflect.

Earlier this month, a stalwart of the region’s business press announced that its August-September issue would be its last.

The closure of South East Business, which had carried news about Kent, Sussex and Surrey companies since 1982, highlights the pressure many magazines are under. For us, it also marks the end of a mutually beneficial relationship, with consistent coverage for our clients and a regular Maxim opinion piece.

The relationship goes back more than a quarter of a century. Before we launched, we took the then editor Nick Mercer into our confidence, and once we went live 25 years ago, he published our press release along with a photograph that was bespoke to the publication.

Maxim directors Philip Jones (left) and Andrew Metcalf pose with an edition of South East Business in 1995. The magazine published the photograph alongside a press release on Maxim's launch.

When Maxim reached its 20th birthday, Nick said of us: “Both Philip and Andrew were committed from the start that Maxim would offer more than the PR of press releases and photo opportunities. 

“They knew that to serve their clients’ best interests they needed to not just work with, but become involved with the media and the medium of information, understanding the needs, the pressures and opportunities to deliver the desired outcomes. 

“Maxim would approach me with genuine news stories, frame feature material to suit the wider needs of the magazine and, importantly, understand that sometimes there was a better story ‘out there’ and that their clients would have to give way to a competitor.”

Bigger picture

The demise of South East Business is symptomatic of an industry in transition, and highlights how business-to-business marketing has changed with traditional printed routes to market struggling to compete in a digital world. Covid-19 was the final straw. 

The pandemic lockdown has hit many publications hard, especially those, like South East Business, delivered free to the desks of known individuals and 100 per cent dependent on advertising revenue to cover the cost of professional editorial and design, as well as printing and distribution.

With people working from home – and not from their work address – publishers couldn’t hand-on-heart tell advertisers their publications would be as widely read. As a result, advertising rates have been squeezed.

Many publications have offered online editions to deliver their news and features, but in this has often been an added cost, rather than a revenue generator. Although a business essential, many editorial websites have struggled to make a financial return from the advertising they attract.

What’s the outlook?

As for the future of business media, they still offer a channel to market our respective businesses, but their survival depends upon our collective support. 

Rather than simply taking their perceived ‘free’ editorial, the businesses who benefit the most from these titles, such as banks, lawyers and accountants, need to be more open to advertising in them.

Without this support it is inevitable that other publications will follow the path unfortunately taken by South East Business.

What can you do?

If publications continue to disappear, businesses will need to look at how best to reach out to the clients they are targeting, and that might include: 

1.    Continuing to produce press releases, but recognising that there are fewer outlets, so the story will need to be strong, well-written, preferably accompanied by a professionally taken photograph
2.    Utilising all new content on your website – and disseminating it through your social media channels
3.    Developing case studies that highlight the benefits of being a customer
4.    Then taking the content and merging it with your database of existing and potential customers to publish your own printed or digital newsletter

And that’s only scratching the surface – you can always speak to the team at Maxim to identify the most effective solutions for your business.

In the meantime, we raise a glass to South East Business and wish the departing team –  including editor Christine Rayner – all the best for the future.

 

Usually it would be our clients appearing in South East Business but occassionally we had our own news to share.

Andrew Metcalf - Director

Andrew Metcalf

Maxim / Director

posted in: digital, marketing, media relations,

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