The publishing industry took it on the chin in 2008 with a shocking drop in ad page revenues. Like the rest of the economy, the fast and furious plunge from what was considered “normal” sent the industry reeling, and the expected quick bounce back didn’t materialize.
The good news is the drastic declines leveled off fairly quickly, and even showed some growth in 2011 and 2012. This past year saw another tweak downward, by about 7.5%
“Compared to 2009, the last few years have been less about precipitously falling ad pages as much as their failure to recover to pre-crisis levels,” writes D. B Hebbard in Talking New Media who cites the latest Business Information Network (BIN) report from ABM.
What’s been so interesting about the post-recession years is that many people seem to lose historical perspective and only go back as far as 2008 when thinking about recovery in their industry.
In reality, the B2B publishing segment suffered a big shake-up after the dot com bust at the turn of the century. And what happened there may actually have had a larger long-term effect than our current situation.
As Hebbard points out, “[this period] was also the height of investment in B2B by private equity firms. The strategy-du-jour was roll-ups, buying as many properties as possible to increase the value of the company, then sell it all off to some other PE. It was a game of musical chairs that came somewhat to a halt with the bursting of the dot com bubble in March 2000 (when the NASDAQ peaked at 5,408, today it is at around 4,090).”
When the investment money dried up, so did much of a B2B executive’s ability to pump money at a problem until it went away. Combine that with a move toward events and information services as revenue sources, and many publishers have found other streams to supplement the loss from ad page sales.
Publishing has changed. The year 2008 was a shift, but only one of several significant changes over the working lifetime of those of us in the industry.
This is the new normal, and those of us waiting for a return to post-whatever levels are just spinning our wheels. This is the time to make our own recoveries, which smart companies continue to do despite the economic climate.