Google’s Impact on Niche Magazines

Ad Age writes:

Earlier this month at the annual conference of business-to-business group American Business Media, Pat Kenealy, CEO of tech publisher IDG, warned attendees about a foe he believed was underestimated. Google, he noted, could notch $2 billion in advertising this year — some analysts found this low — and said that tech-related advertising made up around 10% of that total.

The killer advertising app for Google — as well as its search competitors like Yahoo! — is its AdWords service, which allows marketers to buy paid-link placement next to searches conducted around keywords they identify. Marketers use AdWords to reach consumers with tightly targeted messages as consumers seek tightly targeted information, which is a decent thumbnail description of business-to-business publishing’s model.

“Google has created a revenue stream from being the card catalog or the newsstand, not the magazine,” Mr. Kenealy said. Those he addressed at the ABM convention “have spent less time than they should looking at what search does to the seeking and finding of specialized information.”

Others see the matter more bluntly. “If Google can slice and dice [information],” said one b-to-b publishing executive, “and give highly qualified users to very targeted advertisers, then what do you need a trade publication for?”

John Battelle responds:

Google will not kill specialized, niche publications. There will *always* be a market for them. Any executive in the trade publishing business that fears Google ought to take a hard look at the value they are creating and see if he isn’t blaming the wrong actor. The world needs editors and analysts. But paper? In many cases where paper has dominated in the past, the answer is no.

The question is whether that market needs or justifies the expense of paper. Paper has graduated to the place television was a couple of decades ago – simply too expensive a proposition (in a wholistic view – to manufacture, print, distribute, etc. ) save for very specific economics – mass market (ie the recent surge of celebrity crap) or highly adapted to execution in the particular medium (ie portability (daily newspapers), or design (Wired), or long form (TNY)). You knew this already, but the new paper – cheap, ubiquitous, malleable – is the internet.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.