In an age of Google, is it still worth for professional firms to get their ideas published in third party media, including (gasp) trade magazines? One of the central ideas of this blog is that it is worth the hassle.

Why? Well, third-party niche media are specifically designed to reach very senior people, with significant budgetary discretion.

To see how this works, let's consider that you’re with a firm that has set its sights on doing more work with the upstream oil and gas sector. In post #82, I went into some detail on why it’s worthwhile to get your firm’s ideas into trade and professional media. In this case, there are two numbers: 43,074 and 11,460.

The first figure is the number of readers of “E&P,” - “Exploration and Production,” the Houston-based publication covering that upstream oil and gas business. And who are those 43,074 readers? Very senior people in the upstream – VP level and above. How do we know that? We know because the publication takes audited surveys of its readers to respond to advertisers who are asking the same question.

And that’s where the other number comes in – 11,460 is the amount of US dollars it takes to buy a color advertising page in this publication. And E&P has a very healthy book of advertising clients, companies that pay significant money to get their messages in front of these readers.

So is it really better to get your ideas into a publication such as E&P, or publish them on your own and put your trust in Google or the strength of your email list?

That’s what this post is about -- trends in communications, and how you can work with those trends to get your firm’s ideas in front of potential clients through niche media.

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Information that’s worth paying for

To understand, consider an example from the world of real estate. In what’s called the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), where I live, there’s a trend in the housing market that has parallels in thought leadership marketing.

In many GTA neighborhoods, the older houses built in the 1950s and 1960s are being demolished in favor of “monster homes” – loosely defined as anything larger than you can afford yourself – allowing families of maybe three people to live large.

At the other end of the scale we see mushrooming piles of condo towers. Many of the units are small – in the hundreds of square feet – often filled with furniture designed to multi-task, making it possible to live small.

It’s an increasingly bifurcated market for housing – big houses for the top ten percent, and shoeboxes-in-the-sky for the rest.

We see that in the media too. Newspapers that used to make money off ads and subscriptions are having trouble selling news. There is just so much free content available. We see the results in shrinking newsrooms and a greater reliance on generic fluff about topics like Lindsay Lohan’s latest comeback attempt. That’s the mass market, like all those glass boxes being thrown up all over the GTA.

But as well as for that low-end market, there is a growing demand for the news equivalent of the monster home – high-value niche publications such as E&P. Each sector of the economy that offers a market will have advertisers wanting to reach that market, and a publication -- generally with a print email and online offering – to meet it.

And just like gated communities (fortunately, few of those exist yet in the GTA) of monster homes, there are mechanisms in place that guard the exclusivity of the information in these high-value publications.

Which brings me to a conversation I had with a marketing person from an engineering firm based in Calgary, for whom I’d just recently published an article in a London-based publication for the coal sector, World Coal. The firm wanted to get some social media stretch out of the article, and my contact asked if there’s a link available they could tweet about.

In this case, no. World Coal follows the “gated” business model, which provides subscriptions to senior people in the coal mining, transportation and power generation markets. Nobody else gets to read it. It’s part of how the publication maintains its exclusivity – rather like the bouncers in an in-demand nightclub – and shows that its ad space is worth the money it charges.

If you want to subscribe, you complete an online form and if your title shows that you matter, they’ll put you on their list. Not important enough? No subscription for you, or access to the complete issue online behind a paywall. But you can still read whatever they choose to put on their public website.

World Coal said they would provide a PDF of the article that the firm could use in its social media, for the equivalent of US$340. That might seem a lot to charge for having an intern hit a few keystrokes to result in “generate PDF,” but that’s part of how the publication makes its money.

It’s the approach that says, “This information has value and we’re going to guard that value,” which is quite different from the more common model that says, “We’re looking for all the page views we can get, and we don’t care who they’re from.”

The fact that World Coal gates its content isn’t a bad thing. It means that the people on the site are well-qualified potential clients for your firm – at a high level within their organization, with budgets to spend. Certainly the advertisers don’t mind the exclusivity of the readers. Neither should anyone want to reach this market.

Suddenly, paying $340 for a reprint of an article by your firm, which you can point to as being from a well-renowned (in its niche) publication – doesn’t seem like such a bad deal.

One way I’ve found to make the article available to your network is by asking the editor for permission to reprint the article. This works because if you’ve just sent an article to this particular editor at no charge, and it was a useful and informative article free of sales pitches, the editor will want more of the same. So, the editor may be more willing to grant reprint permission to a contributor than they would just anyone.

It’s worth asking the editor for permission to do reprints – and be sure to get that in a written form even if it’s just in an e-mail. Then, save a copy of that email in case you need to prove that you have permission to reprint the article.

Publishing articles in niche media can be a challenge. I talked about one of those challenges – getting the editor’s buy in to your idea – in Post #74.

But while publishing content on your own site is important, you need to fill the top of your funnel too – and one way is through publishing your firm’s ideas where your ideal clients are already looking.