Magazine stand

Read part one of this article, on how a B2B magazine stopped publishing news for a week here. And now read on to find out the results…

The phones rang, more often indeed than they had the week before. But delight had been replaced by rage. The response to advertising had dropped to almost nothing. All the advertisers who just a week before had been praising our publishing skills to the hilt were now demanding their money back.

So the news mattered. But so did job advertising. In research, many readers said they read the news before the jobs, or indeed only read only the jobs. So it seemed to me as the journalists returned to work, that it was the entire package that made for successful publishing.

Curiously, the digital world has hitherto provided conflicting evidence of the veracity of this argument 21st century media.

On the one hand, news can only be monetised through readers when it is packaged with additional value. I am hugely resistant to paying for The Times on the web. But I didn’t blink about buying an iPad app subscription. Why? Because I get not only the news (which I can find a free substitute for) but also all the sexy formatting for the tablet app, the interactive infographics, the beautiful rendering of photography and even the crossword.

Why has classified broken free of editorial?

Curiously, the recruitment advertising market has been dominated by the major job boards – an almost editorially-free environment. That’s odd given my experience in 1983.

But the explanation is obvious. When the labour market is competitive, when there is more supply of labour than there is demand, a “pull” model of recruitment may be sufficient. So the success of the job board model relies upon the active participant of the job seeker. But even if that does work and there is competition, the price value of a job ad has dropped from thousands of pounds in the old print model to perhaps £100 in the job board model.

The old print model enjoyed high rates and success in a tight labour market, where the model was more “push”. Accidental viewers of job ads who were reading the magazine for things like news and features, were often the best kind of responders. They may not have been active job seekers, but they were potentially great candidates.

The lesson from 1983 is this: to make real money from news and jobs there must be value added to the basic offer. So for news, it must be bundled with compelling functionality or data, or networking and community.

As the labour market tightens there will be room for innovation in job marketing too. As an example, we are experimenting with a combination of job boards and semantic indexing technology. What that will allow us to do is add push to the marketing of jobs by displaying them contextually using our taxonomy to define relevance of the display.

In the debate about news, too often the arguments are looked at in isolation from the other issues in packaging the user experience. The role of the modern digital publisher is to think about the complete experience for the reader or user – just as I should have done during the strike in 1983.

Neil Thackray is co-founder of Briefing Media, the parent company of TheMediaBriefing.com.