Death spiral of a B2B trade pub, 2013 style

Even before the Internet, our industry had a tenuous relationship with trade magazines. Advertising was expensive, and our companies were all a bit too small to afford spending what we needed to. At one point, one of our competitors even ran a full page “we’ll shoot this guy if we don’t get enough inquiries” ad, just before I got hired. It is a thing of legend, that I wish I had a copy of.

There were two magazines that covered ‘test equipment’ reliably, EE and T&MW. EE was always the second fiddle. As soon as I and my contemporaries got a handle on having a website, we stopped any advertising in these magazines. But those with bigger budgets and new products to tout kept using these publications for 15 years.

Then the death spiral started … for T&MW.

(I’m skipping discussing ownership of the pubs, as it is hard to follow and less relevant to the actual results.)

The first big event two years ago, was the defection of the senior editor of T&MW to EE. I don’t know the insides of this, but certainly he was important to both readers and advertisers. Both magazines suffered from this, I think: EE hasn’t taken advantage of his editorial prowess, and T&MW never filled his shoes.

Then, in a simple email last year, we subscribers and advertisers learned that T&MW was going to be online-only. Bam! No more print. I have two guesses about this: A major advertiser, Agilent, pulled out; or owners were being pragmatic and forward looking. There seemed to be a pretty interesting attempt at changing the editorial process into something like popular tech blogs run these days. For me, as a casual reader, this ended my consumption of their content. Email newsletter updates came pretty much as they had before, and the RSS feed of their blogs languished.

Now, just recently, the owners of T&MW have announced a reorganization of their trade pubs, once again focusing on online content. And in that re-org, T&MW was getting cut out. Bam! No more T&MW.

My thoughts?

Certainly it is a shame to lose a source of quality editorial for testing professionals. They did a good job revamping the magazine in the mid-2000s to get in the field and tell the stories of what others are doing to be successful in testing.

And, based on EE’s thin issues, you’ve got to wonder when they’ll be dropping out of the picture.

While some companies are working on good content-marketing programs that fill the gap and are more effective for themselves, where is the public discourse and discussion of successful application of technology and techniques?

I don’t care about advertising where ever that is, I care that it exists to further achievements of industry. The internet has moved technology and society so far so fast, yet there are casualties along the way the actually slow the advances, and losing a major trade pub is one of them.

UPDATE (6/28/2013): Here is their post announcing the change to their readers.