Are you looking for the ideal marketing vehicle for reaching people with significant budgetary discretion in your firm’s ideal markets? This vehicle needs the following characteristics:

  • Your firm’s ideal clients already frequently use and rely on this way to stay informed
  • It has high credibility, and your ideal clients trust what they find published there
  • It’s willing to carry your firm’s thought leadership content, ideally at no cost
  • It supports a wide range of formats – text articles and papers, videos, slide shows, webinars, info-graphics and others
  • It has a wide social media following to help get your message in front of prospects who may not yet have heard of you
One more point I’d add, important in today’s media maelstrom:
  • It must be financially viable, so that there’s a revenue stream that covers costs and enough to turn a decent profit.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may have guessed the answer – niche professional and industry trade publications. But if you’re going to get your firm’s ideas in front of their readers, you need to understand their world.

Here are my thoughts on that, from my time inside that world, and now as an outsider who works with people in it.

Is the advertising-supported model really dying?

Many people are saying that the traditional model of publishing is dying, and there seems to be good evidence of that.

I thought of this recently in an article on the media aggregator app DIGG on my phone, without paying anything to read it. That’s important, because as the article pointed out, the longstanding advertising-supported revenue model that has sustained publications for centuries has unraveled. That change has happened in the lifetime of just about anyone reading this.

Print publications, particularly newspapers, were first to lose their revenue base.

First, online classified ads such as Kajiji provided a better way for buyers and sellers to connect – employment, rental housing, used cars, and anything else that had given financial life to the classified-ads section of newspapers. Online dating services siphoned off the “companions wanted” section.

Then, much of the “display” advertising business went to Google, Amazon, Facebook and other online giants.

It was the same in television. The remote control device allowed viewers to turn down the volume on ads, and the availability of more channels made it practical for viewers just to click to another channel when an ad came on. Streaming services such as Netflix allowed viewers to avoid commercials entirely.

In radio, downloading and then streaming services also allowed the public to avoid advertisers’ messages.

The result has been growing silence and media vanishing, particularly newspapers, as the lights are turned off in newsrooms around the globe.

But one category of advertiser-supported print media has thrived – that of business and professional magazines, together with their online manifestations. Most of them have continued to be profitable financially, and to provide a valuable service to their readers. How so?

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A lucrative (even if it’s a small) market

Trade and professional media are targeted around a specific industry or profession/occupation. It could be broad (such as the retail sector) or narrow (the offshore oil and gas industry). But in any case, there’s a market of people with budgetary discretion and this means companies that want to sell to them, need to get their message in front of those people. Leading to an opportunity to sell advertising space, which provides that all-important revenue source.

Many of these publications charge well worth of US$ 7,000 per page for advertising, and they get it. These are ads for excavators, bulldozers, trucks and other capital equipment, as well as services. And while readers of many consumer publications just flip past the ads without noticing them, the readers of trade media are generally interested in what the advertisers offer.

In this capitalistic world, people having money and are willing to spend it, generally get what they want.

In this case, they want content developed just for them. Sure, there are general publications like “Fortune” or “Wired.” But there are also many narrowly-targeted titles like “World Pipelines,” “Pit & Quarry,” and “Mining Review Africa.”

Some have readership circulation figures of 40,000 or more, which I’d consider “midsize” for a US-based trade publication. But others have smaller readerships, yet somehow they’re able to charge healthy rates for their ad pages. How so? Because even if it’s a small readership, it’s made up of people who have significant budgetary discretion (see post #106 for more on selecting publications).

As I tell my clients, “Who do you think will be reading a magazine called Pit & Quarry? Someone in a senior leadership role in the aggregate sector, that’s who. If you want to do business with that sector, you need to get your message into that publication.”

So how do these publications obtain the editorial content that will attract senior readers with significant budgetary discretion?

That’s where you come in.

Giving editors what they want, so you get what you want

Editors of large-circulation publications (like, 50,000 circulation or more) generally have the budgets to hire staff and freelance journalists to produce what I’d call “real” articles. These are well-researched, informative articles of the sort I used to write as a staff writer and freelancer. They are an important part of what holds this world together.

But most trade publications also depend on another source of content that’s useful to their readers and specifically for them – “expert” contributors. These are people with expertise in the subject area, and who write based on that knowledge. What kind of people? They might be:
  • Industry association leaders who feel a sense of civic responsibility to the community
  • Senior practitioners seeking to build their professional profile and share their knowledge
  • Business professionals seeking to sell products and services to the readers.
Most of the people reading this blog will be in the third category. Most of my clients are as well – they’re either people with the expertise to offer the readership, or marketing people within organizations that offer expertise.

In other blog posts, I’ve gone into more detail about how to work with editors (see parts one and two of my “editor’s jargon demystifier,”) and my thoughts on how to present an article concept to an editor.

Just remember that editors of these mid-market publications depend on expert contributors to fill their pages. They don’t always sound like it, but if you meet the needs of their readers, they’ll be glad to hear from you.