Media Week Closure: Should Haymarket Have Cut Deeper?

Some Media Week staff are preparing to pack their things, but the Media Week name is intact and the site will look “much the same as it does today”, Haymarket Business Media’s editorial director Dominic Mills tells paidContent:UK, after publisher Haymarket decided to close MW’s print edition, cut Revolution to a quarterly giveaway and drop third of its media mags’ staff.

At this year’s FIPP World Magazine Congress, Haymarket Media Group founder Lord Heseltine had said (via a central aggregator portal Brand Republic, flanked by several individual print titles was the model recipe for success.

Now the publisher admits there simply isn’t enough advertising to keep everything printing, as advertising continues to choke on the economy. But Heseltine’s favoured multi-brand configuration lives on… the company’s Campaign and Marketing titles — which are less reliant on ad revenue — are entirely untouched by this round of cuts; meanwhile, the Media Week awards and annual conference will run next year, we’re told that Revolution will launch a blog.

Including Brand Republic that’s five UK media industry titles from one B2B company, covering broadly similar markets (digital and traditional publishing, client-side marketing, digital marketing and advertising). It’s tempting to ask whether the company could have cut even more losses by shutting down the Media Week brand entirely.

“If we have a brand, we have a natural promotion vehicle,” Heseltine said at FIPP, meaning magazines can be used for events and spin-off products. But with delegate revenue shrinking as business look to cut costs, is it not assuming goodwill on behalf of readers to hope they’ll keep supporting an online-only brand that has to fight for attention against its own sister digital brands?

When magazines had a monopoly on advertising, the most profitable thing to do was to expand into every possible niche and sub-audience to capitalise (Ed.: Remember when Centaur ran New Media Investor, New Media Creative, New TV Strategies in addition to New Media Age?). Now it’s the opposite: the web has blown away the staid niches; it’s more profitable to shut down magazines and concentrate on fewer of them.

But Haymarket’s pre-tax profits almost halved from £8 million in 2007 to £4.5 million in 2008 — judging by the year that most publishers have had, its earnings in 2009 will be see an even worse fall. So this move may not be inspired so much by strategy but by sheer necessity.