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What future for print publications now Lloyds List has run aground?

Just before Christmas last year, quietly and with minimal ceremony, an era came to an end. The era in question was the existence of Lloyds List magazine, which serves the maritime and shipping industry and was first published in 1734, making it almost certainly the world’s first printed business publication. As such, its launch marks a significant milestone in the history of B2B information and communications – and therefore so does its demise.

To be clear: although the print edition of Lloyds List may have run aground, the brand itself remains buoyant and defiantly seaworthy. Publisher Informa has discontinued print in a bid to focus on quick-fire news turnaround and delivery to an online audience, which obviously gives online significant advantages. Despite this, the print edition of Lloyds List will inevitably be seen by some as a Bellweather for how business professionals utilise information in the 21st century.

Of course, there’s nothing new business publications closing their print editions to focus on digital – the last five years has seen a decimation of the B2B publishing industry, with big publishers dramatically resizing their portfolios. But Lloyds List’s place in the chronology of business publications, and the fact that it made the move from print relatively late in the day, makes this decision particularly significant.

So what does this mean for business publications in particular – and B2B communications in general? The demise of Lloyds List magazine certainly demonstrates for the umpteenth time that print is not a great way to disseminate news content, at least when compared to online; and similarly that print is not a great way to reach an international audience. But does it say anything significant beyond that? I don’t believe so.

Clearly print-only business publications are no longer viable – and probably haven’t been for a while. Given the growing domination of digital communications, and the message overload which many are experiencing, offline messages increasingly stand out, which in my mind means print (as part of an integrated mix) can offer something distinct, compelling and valuable. And for that reason, they should be cherished – by marketers and business people alike.