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“Off-White” Paper #20 – Publication Mania

Last fall in Off-White Paper #17, I blasted the Federal Paper for entering a market that didn’t require what they were offering. They are apparently ceasing publication after less than 6 months. Not a big surprise, but the market is information-ally well fed. I didn’t think they had a significant enough readership (target was 30,000 “senior” government readers), and my argument was simple: these people are not looking for more to read, and the proposed information was available elsewhere. Insufficient market research.

And now, yet another big publisher – CMP – wants to come into the government market.

I receive all three Federal publications but I recently read CMP is starting a government systems book, Government Enterprise. It’s going to be poly-bagged with InformationWeek, Network Computing and Optimize and have an initial circulation of 47,000, and it will be a quarterly (I got this from BtoB, which is an excellent marketing publication – check out Frequency: quarterly.

My advice to advertisers? Quarterly?

This is the same CMP that, inside VAR Business, an otherwise excellent read, started a government reseller magazine last year, not a bad move. You may recall a few years back that Government Technology published Government Reseller for a couple years (I was a columnist). But one cover of the new VAR Business government magazine that caught my attention called CDWG a “systems integrator”. Now I’ll be first in line to call CDWG a savvy player in the government market, but I’d have to stop way short of calling them an integrator. Is this the level of knowledge and expertise we can expect from yet another publication targeting the fewer ad dollars in our otherwise healthy niche? My advice to advertisers: tell them you’re a systems integrator and get a cover shot.

So let me poke a little more into the BtoB piece on CMP. They are planning a 50/50 split between ad space and editorial, So does this mean we’re talking 12 page newsletter or real magazine?

Oh, but Mark, it has a web site too! Who the heck doesn’t?

Do I think this is a bad idea? Not necessarily, as there are pockets of government techies reading all types of technical publications. They read these because they are necessarily technically deeper than Federal Computer Week, or Government Computer News, which are primarily news publications.

There are pockets of government readers in virtually any B2B publication.

But if CMP thinks the government techies will add more to their reading and maintain subscriptions in the Information Week, Network Computing and Optimize to read the new book, I think they are wrong. We are all limited on our time, and we tend to reduce or condense what we read rather than expand the volume. If CMP doesn’t mind losing the subscribers it has to the other books to their new one, they might last a year.

The audit statements of the supplier magazines will suffer in at least two ways if they proceed. First, government buyers almost always spend more than their business counterparts, so the buying influence in dollars in subsequently audit statements would drop if my premise is correct about the Federal readers opting for fewer publications.

Second, the overall numbers of each of the supplier publications would also drop (again, if my premise holds). They say their initial distribution will be 47,000, which averages out to just under 16,000 per publication from the three publications they will draw from.

A better plan might be to add more real government news to three already healthy publications. That would be a value add across the board without depleting the resources of the publisher and taking subscribers away from three relatively healthy publications.

Will Government Enterprise last? Probably not. It might outlast the Federal Paper, but that won’t win bragging rights.

Copyright 2003, Amtower & Company