BtoB USA RIP
I was shocked and saddened by the news today that US-based BtoB magazine is to fold into sister publication Ad Age as of January 2014 – in other words, close down. The US has a proud, broad and well-established tradition as the flag-bearers for B2B marketing around the world, and BtoB magazine was a key part of this.
So news of its demise feels like the end of an era, and bad news for the B2B industry on that side of the pond as it will undoubtedly reduce its profile and limit its development potential. But whilst this may be true, I feel that it was ultimately quite predictable. Despite its venerable age (it was launched under the title ‘Class’ in 1916) BtoB had demonstrably failed to move with the times, retaining the newsstand format and apparently being too highly reliant on page advertising to pay the bills.
The controlled-circulation model has long-since been abandoned in the UK (with marketing publications such as Precision Marketing and Marketing Direct folding) as advertisers migrated spend online and to more measurable forms of engagement. In this context, perhaps it was a miracle that BtoB lasted as long as it did.
The justification of the magazine’s owner, Crain Publishing, is that the change is due to the fact that “B2B and consumer marketers are increasingly using similar tools and wrestling with the same challenges” simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny – they have ALWAYS used the same tools! This appears to me at least as an attempt to save face and maintain some vestige of their old audience with the combined publication.
But having said that, I take no satisfaction or gratification in the news of BtoB’s demise. If anything, as an advocate for greater glory of the B2B marketing industry, I’m annoyed with Crain for not waking up to the changes in the publishing industry sooner, and adapting to survive. Perhaps these changes are taking a bit longer to impact in the US than they did in the UK.
As a journalist, I believe passionately in the role of independent, objective media organisations to serve and support industries, and without a publication of record the US-based B2B marketers and brands will inevitably be worse off than they were before.
So how will we respond? By continuing to do what we have always striven to do, over the last 10 years – to promote, support and seek to enhance the B2B marketing industry in the UK, Europe, the US and around the world. We will do this through a range of products and services, online, offline and including our much-loved printed publication. And we would welcome any newly disenfranchised US-based readers wishing to keep their finger on the pulse of all things B2B.