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May 29, 2008

The PPA’s ample-bottomed B2B propagandists would go down a storm in Burma

By Peter Kirwan MM blog

Pop this in your RSS feed and smoke it: Private Frazer’s Doomed Magazines looks like a freshly-minted second cousin to Business Media Blog.

Private Frazer’s aim is to “‘celebrate’ the halt, the sick and the lame of UK magazine publishing, preserving for posterity the titles that don’t make it (or don’t deserve to).”

In other words: a kind of F***** Company for magazine publishers. With added local irony, we seem to be following a US trend for death-watch blogs that rejoice in names like The Editorial Dead Zone and Magazine Death Pool.

What on earth does the effervescent Tim Weller, chief executive of Incisive Media, make of all this gallows humour?

As recently as February, when all but the most lame-brained knew that the credit crunch was going to hit the economy in a big way, Weller was shouting from the rooftops that B2B publishers “seem to have got our business models right”. He added:

“As a sector we are truly the envy of our British media peers and the blueprint for a successful industry, and by God let’s not be ashamed to shout about it.”

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And by jingo, there was data to support his claim. According to the PPA’s secretariat for B2B propaganda, UK business media generated revenues of £15.6bn in 2004 — and a much-bigger £23bn in 2006. That’s an increase of 47% during two years.

Now there’s a problem with the PPA’s numbers, and it’s this: during the past couple of years, I don’t know anyone in B2B publishing who would have recognized them as a reflection of reality.

In fact, they’re about as credible as a Burmese party political broadcast. And in the wake of the credit crunch, the cognitive dissonance has only grown louder.

Take this week’s story in Press Gazette headlined “Last news reporters leave Music Week“, which told how the CMPi title was planning to face the future with no news reporters and no web editor.

Gary Hughes, managing director of CMPi, sounds like a decent bloke. He had the courtesy to talk to our Colin Crummy when some would have preferred to hide. In the event, Hughes talked about the situation as best he could:

“We are in almost a perfect storm situation. We need to get the product and the business model fit for purpose for the future. I’d say we are doing what we’re doing now to try and keep the business profitable, alive and give it a chance for growing.”

The existence of stories like this (as well as blogs like Private Frazer) should be enough to tell us that B2B publishing has some major problems.

Presumably, the ample-bottomed propagandists who crank out industry statistics for the PPA don’t agree.

Ahead of next year’s stats-fest, perhaps they could try getting out a bit more often.

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