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Fate of Larger Technology Trade Publishers in Question

The publisher of EDN magazine – Reed’s Business Information unit – made the Wall Street Journal today: Reed Faces Challenge in Selling Unit. Reed’s dilemma is that the asking price for the unit has fallen too low, thanks to a continuing decline in ad revenue, the overall credit crunch, and theĀ  general decline of the economy. Yet Reed must sell in order to meet other business commitments.

But here’s where the story gets even more painful for the technology trade industry. Bain Capital, a private-equity firm, is one of two potential buyer of Reed’s Business-Information unit. Yet Bain has recently made a move to unload most of its semiconductor and EDA funds by next year. So if Bain does purchase Reed’s Business Information unit, why would they hold on to EDN?

Now let’s turn to Penton, my former employer and the publisher of Electronic Design magazine. Since its acquisition by Prism (formerly Pri-Media) last year, Penton has slowly been letting go of editors. David Morrison is the latest to leave. So what’s going on? Just more cuts in experienced (meaning expensive) editors? Then why have I been approached by investors concerning the state of Penton as a publisher?

It’s very disheartening to see the continued crumbling of our trade journal industry. The loss of talented and truly knowledgable editors will cripple our industry for years to come. Even worse, I don’t think the layoffs/cuts are over, especially for the major publishers who are still laden with too many administrative layers and pre-Internet/social media mindsets. The fat lady isn’t singing, but let’s hope she is warming up and the worst is over.

5 Responses to “Fate of Larger Technology Trade Publishers in Question”

  1. Lou Covey Says:

    John, it’s all changing, but for the better. You should be proud of the work you are doing at Extension Media because you are changing the model that supports real journalism.

    An we still need to get together to talk. Won’t have tim until after next week. Am in Scotland teaching Scots how to use social media.

  2. Sean Murphy Says:

    We need approaches to journalism that aren’t predicated on a printing press to make a profit. Clearly Extension Media has found a way to blend print and on-line and is now adding community elements that have been lacking from earlier business effort (although clearly a part of the success of sites like the Verification Guild and ESNUG).

    My assessment of the likely impacts of the current worldwide recession are that we have not yet seen the worst and will likely see more cost cutting and consolidation driven (cost cutting / competition reducing) acquisitions instead of new strategic ventures or acquisitions.

    I think that EDA and other key aspects of semiconductor technology development are becoming more and more difficult to follow using a traditional trade press. This creates opportunities for new business models: Lou Covey is staking out one, I have to believe that others will emerge as well.

  3. John Blyler Says:

    Just learned that EDN is “safe” until Mar’09. That’s good news.

  4. John Blyler Says:

    Thx for the compliment, Lou. I’ve been able to achieve some level of sucess in part because my publisher is willing to try new ventures, to take calculated risks.

    I didn’t promise on the interview, didn’t I? Just worried about the “Covey Effect” :)

    Let’s try for a phone interview this week. What times are good for you?

  5. John Blyler Says:

    Hi Sean. You make several good points, as usual. Here’s my take:

    > Print isn’t dead for companies that use it correctly, like ourselves (ExtMedia) and Hearst. The key is having the right “economies of scale.” Actually, a similar set of circumstances occurred in the campus vs online university offerings. I’ve been involved in that world from the start of online education. The analogies are striking.

    > “…adding community elements…” One of my (and my partner Ed Sperling’s) biggest challenges – and maybe successes – is in building communities around the right technology clusters. That is critical. Without the right clusters and community “offerings” to the sponsors, the online sites don’t work. Of course, it’s an extremely dynamic situation. No autopilot here.

    > Several interesting models in place, as you note. Part of the challenge will be to engage the next generation of engineers, while not losing the interest of older professionals. I talked about this point recently with Dr Kahng, the chair for DAC’09. Not surprisingly, DAC is wrestling with these same problems.

    Good chat, Sean. Hope to meet up early next year.

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