September 15, 2020

There’s a Shortage of Publications for Media Professionals

If running a media company is hard, running a media company responsible for reporting on other media companies might be even harder.

We were reminded of this over the summer when FOLIO, a trade publication for magazines, announced that it would discontinue regular reporting. The reality is, with an industry that has seen tremendous contraction, it is very difficult to keep a business running.

We’re starting to see some of the consequences of this contraction. On September 1st, Adweek announced that it had acquired Target Marketing and Publishing Executive:

Included in the acquisition from NAPCO Media are Target Marketing and Publishing Executive as well as FUSE Media, a publishing technology summit. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition expands Adweek’s leadership in publishing and performance marketing, adding an additional 200,000 first-party insights into Adweek’s proprietary audience database.

In the coming weeks, Adweek will launch two new verticals around Publishing and Performance Marketing. FUSE Media, an invitation-only event, brings together leaders from media and technology to connect and exchange ideas.

This follows on the heels of Adweek’s acquisition by Shamrock Capital this past June.

This drastically reduces the number of brands that are covering the media industry. I will be interested to see what Adweek launches in the next few weeks. Other than that, though, there’s really only Digiday and maybe a few very small pubs remaining to cover the media business.

What’s particularly disappointing about this is that there is no one covering B2B media. This irks me primarily because I’ve fallen in love with the B2B model so much over the past few years. As one reader said to me over the weekend, “there’s riches in niches.”

If there is no competition, shouldn’t someone come along and build up a new digital-first publication focused on this?

It’s likely to struggle. Let me try and explain why…

Looking at the advertising business, it just isn’t going to be impressive at all. Despite there being a ton of companies—especially in adtech—trying to sell to media companies is hard. We’re just not buyers. Media companies are contracting, so our budgets to acquire products and services—the core of any healthy advertising business—is incredibly limited. As one reader said, “media executives are cheap.”

But even if we weren’t cheap, it doesn’t change the reality that we don’t have the money to acquire expensive products and services. Therefore, if the media companies don’t have the money, the advertisers aren’t going to spend. It really is that simple.

What’s ironic about this is that events were one of the few great opportunities for media trade pubs. Companies were willing to invest and sponsor in-person meetings. They helped them believe they were getting a return on investment.

That’s what makes Adweek’s announcement interesting. It was clearly calling out it had added “an additional 200,000 first-party insights into Adweek’s proprietary audience database.” As I’ve been saying for months now, first-party data is fundamental to the success of our companies going forward and Adweek recognizes that.

If Adweek can figure out how to deliver targeted digital campaigns to media executives similar to events—and it did buy the FUSE Summit, which is going virtual in November—then it might have something.

Then there’s the subscription business. There should be an opportunity here, but it’s going to require considerable investment in editorial resources, which we don’t know if Adweek is interested in doing.

Consider this… Even before Covid, Publishing Executive was maybe putting out a few pieces of content a week. That’s unlikely to cut it, so it’s going to require staffing up.

I also think that service journalism has a place at this publication, primarily to help publishers understand what other publishers are going through. Let me give you an example…

There are hundreds of adtech vendors and most of them suck. But which ones suck? What about ESPs? And CMS? CDPs? DMPs? If there’s one thing media loves, it’s our acronyms. But the point stands… Which ones should we be using?

I believe there’s an opportunity for Adweek to lean into this work and provide that more evergreen reporting on the various products out there. That might be worth paying for.

Or maybe I should do that…

LinkedIn as a driver of subscribers

Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard from a few different people that they’re seeing some success from LinkedIn as a driver of audience and subscribers.

Now Digiday is reporting that The Economist can join that list of companies also finding success.

After switching gears on its content strategy — starting narrowto publish just business and finance coverage, then going broad by posting all its coverage and then back to a more selective publishing process— it’s grown its followers 39.5% over the last year to 11.4 million. LinkedIn is second only to Twitter in terms of social media platform follower count (it has over 25 million Twitter followers across several accounts).

Of social platforms, LinkedIn is the publisher’s third-biggest subscription driver. The amount of organic traffic that LinkedIn refers back to The Economist site — where people can register to access several articles before subscribing — has doubled year over year. And subscriptions to The Economist generated organically from LinkedIn have tripled year on year, although it wouldn’t say from what base. 

A big driver of this could be the evolution of LinkedIn over the past few years. In October 2019, CNN Business wrote a story about LinkedIn’s newsroom of 65 journalists.

In order to fulfill this dream, Roth has hired a team of journalists and empowered them with the tools they need to discover original stories and to distribute those stories to the right audience. Having these tools at their disposal is appealing to journalists who want to know who is reading their work. While Roth has yet to dominate the working world with his editorial strategy, he is getting close: LinkedIn now has editors in the US, Brazil, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Australia, India, Japan, China and Singapore. About 20 editors are based in the US, including its San Francisco office and in New York City, where Roth lives.

All of this has been good for LinkedIn’s traffic and ultimately its bottom line. A metric that tracks how often users are coming to LinkedIn in 30 minute intervals is up about 27% from the year prior, a LinkedIn spokesperson told CNN Business.

What used to just be a place for finding jobs has now evolved into being a place for professionals over all. Good, curated information factors into being an effective professional.

Therefore, if LinkedIn editors are looking for good content to share to help their audience, it should come as no surprise that professional publications like The Economist are finding such success.

That said, it’s not so cut and dry. According to, LinkedIn is not in the top 10 external traffic referrers. That’s not terribly surprising, though. LinkedIn is great for niche professional publications, but these are, by default, smaller. So, wouldn’t see this traffic showing up as much. Not to mention, the cost of is high where it might not make sense for one of these niche sites to even pay for it.

According to the Digiday story, The Economist has built up its following on LinkedIn to 11.4 million. Therefore, the goal needs to be getting those users off LinkedIn and onto The Economist.

However, it shouldn’t be about the subscription right away. Michel Silberman, SVP of Strategy at Piano, told Digiday that Facebook and Twitter’s conversion rate is only 0.05% versus 0.20% across all the sites using its software.

My guess is that a focus on capturing some user data—either a newsletter or through a free registration—is the first step. Part of this just makes sense… Once a user is off the platform and in your ecosystem, you can share more content with them than they might get otherwise.

Once the user is in the funnel, there are more opportunities for them to see the paywall and, ultimately, subscribe.

For my B2B readers, with LinkedIn focused on providing good content to business professionals, it’s worth identifying if there are any opportunities to grow your audience there.