Watershed Moments In The Publishing Industry's Radical Transformation

Here are some watershed moments that mark the radical transformation of the publishing industry to a non-print-centric business:

1. New York Times becomes an aggregator

The New York Times, paper of record and one of the last great bastions of the belief that one entity can create all the content that anyone needs, has finally capitulated to the realites of the networked, content-exploding media world of the web. The Times announced that its new auto section online will aggregate third-party content:

The new Automobiles site introduces aggregated feeds, a new listings section, and vertical navigation. The new features mirror recent moves made by sports site SI.com and Time.com, among others that aggregate content from other sources with the goal to create the best one-stop destination for visitors who are passionate about a subject.

One of the key enhancements of the redesign is that NYTimes.com’s own auto content is now buttressed by information on car makes and models from other sources such as New Car Test Drive, a popular source of auto information.

“We wanted to surround our own auto content with supporting information for any new make or model [data, pricing, rebates, photos], as well as third-party content,” said Ira Silberstein, vice president of product development, NYTimes.com. “We want to be a resource for consumers so that they can get a wealth of information…reviews from us, from other parties, ratings, pricing and specs all in one place.

“The biggest thing about the redesign is it’s more of a meta-search approach,” Silberstein said. “By aggregating content around each of our reviews, we think we can become the one source where consumers start their research process.”

The Times, like all other media brands, is fighting tooth and nail against disintermediation, principally by search, but also by other aggregators like TechMeme (where I find all NYT articles on media and technology) and Digg.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

2. Print ad revenue is no longer the majority of B2B publisher revenue

B2B publishers now get more revenue from events than print advertising, and custom publishing and digital media advertising are the fastest growing sources of revenue. Print ad pages declined 3% year-over-year in January 2007.

According to a compilation of 2006 revenue data released Monday by American Business Media, “face-to-face revenue” has surpassed print advertising sales for the first time in the history of the industry. By face-to-face revenues, the ABM means conferences, trade shows and events, which garnered $11.3 billion among ABM members participating in the association’s Business Information Network tracking reports. That brings events to a 36% share of B-to-B revenues, nudging out B-to-B print advertising’s 35% share for the first time ever.

It’s a trend that is not likely to reverse itself. The ABM estimates that events is the third fastest growing source of revenues for B-to-B publishers, surpassed only by the rapid rise of digital (online) advertising sale and custom publishing. Print advertising, by comparison, has been steadily declining.

**3. Publishers Information Bureau no longer reporting monthly print ad pages

The magazine industry has stopped reporting monthly ad page totals, moving to quarterly reporting. Why deliver bad news more frequently when you can deliver it less frequently?

In the latest move in an ongoing trend reducing the flow of information about the advertising performance of major traditional media, the magazine industry Tuesday announced it would discontinue its monthly reports on advertising pages and revenues booked by major consumer magazine publishers. The reports, which have been distributed publicly to advertisers, agencies and the industry’s trade press by the Publishers Information Bureau for more than a quarter century, will now be released quarterly effective with the first-quarter 2007 report.