By: Tony Silber
Put the brakes on the narrative that says the magazine-media industry is in an inexorable decline. It’s not the case for the people actually on the ground, making this happen. That’s one highly noteworthy takeaway from a new survey of Folio: readers asking their outlook for 2018.
Asked whether they anticipate their revenue will grow next year, and if so, by how much, nearly 40 percent of respondents said yes, they do, and by double digits. Another 30 percent said they expect to grow in the single digits. Combined, that’s just shy of 70 percent of survey respondents saying they expect to grow next year, in a period dominated by turmoil, downsizing, the “Duopoly” and migration of advertising and of readers away from print.
In that same question, 25 percent of respondents said they expect revenue for 2018 to be flat, and just 5 percent expect to see a decline.
You can spin this remarkable finding in a number of ways, but the upshot is that respondents in this particular survey expect to see growth. The survey was conducted in August and September, with respondents covering a wide range of media sectors, including B2B, association, and mass and niche consumer.
So naturally, the obvious next question is, if you expect growth, where is it going to come from? And here, the answer is events. Nearly 54 percent of respondents said events will drive growth in 2018, with print and digital advertising—separately—close behind, with 46 percent of respondents saying those revenue sources will drive growth. Interestingly, other services performed on behalf of advertiser customers—clustered under the title of marketing services—is a big priority for 2018, according to respondents. Almost 36 percent of respondents say this is a critical area of growth as well.
This group of respondents skews in the direction of the print-centric part of the Folio: audience. Their current 2017 revenue is overwhelmingly print oriented, with print making up nearly half—46 percent—of these respondents’ aggregated revenue. Digital was slightly more than 20 percent, events were 15 percent and marketing services was 12 percent. Various other revenue sources made up the remaining 5 percent.
Connecting the dots, if print is the current primary source of revenue for respondents, and growth is expected in events, digital, and marketing services in addition to print advertising, then it stands to reason that those first three are the fastest-growing areas of business for respondents. Our data bears that out, with digital being the fastest growing, followed by marketing services and events.
Underpinning growth, of course, is investment. We asked our respondents to state their priorities for 2018, and the number-one priority, cited by 23 percent of respondents, was investment in database-management tools. This was followed by a commitment to bring in new skillsets (presumably to manage and analyze that data) and by entrepreneurship: launching a spinoff brand, to be specific.
In terms of technology investments specifically, the top priority for respondents was web development, with a unified database also very important. These were cited by 47 percent and 41 percent of respondents, respectively. Marketing automation and content management were also deemed important tech priorities.