SonicWALL is trying to stay ahead of the curve online. This year the Internet security products marketer boosted its online advertising budget to 40% of its overall media spending, from 30% in 2006. At the same time, its print allocation has dropped over the past two years to 60% of overall media spending from 70%.
Despite the shift, SonicWALL, like many other marketers, is still bullish on print because of its advantages over online in promoting a brand.
“When you're going through the process of putting a print ad together, you need to come to grips with the branding statement,” said Steve Franzese, VP-marketing at Sonic-WALL. “You can distill the brand down to its essence, and you're not going to get that opportunity in an online ad or online advertising campaign.”
Since 2006 SonicWALL has run a branding campaign in trade magazines targeting the tech market including Computerworld, InformationWeek and PC World. Franzese said the campaign has increased awareness of SonicWALL among IT professionals to 69%, from 21%.
“The demise of print reminds me of the "paperless office,' “ Franzese said. “There's always a role for print, but it's up to publishers to articulate its value and evolve the medium to respond to a changing world.”
“I still see [print] as part of the base of an ad program,” said Steve Carlson, associate media director of Spark Communications, whose clients include the American Medical Association, Avaya Inc. and Caterpillar Inc. “It's starting to become an important add-on to online and events compared with several years ago,” when that relationship was reversed.
Caterpillar periodically buys ad space in Equipment Today as well as buyer's guides, Carlson said, but the ability to track users' behavior online tends to trump print buys, particularly in the current climate.
“With the economy slowing down, marketers have to look at where their print dollars are going,” Carlson said. “It's not a last gasp for print, but other [marketing] vehicles are becoming more important.”
Marketers' media spending patterns help to illustrate the story.
Through October of last year—the latest data available—b2b print ad revenue fell 1.98%, as marketers spent about $9 billion, according to the Business Information Network, a unit of American Business Media. Ad pages through October fell 3.43%.
ABM projects magazine revenue to drop 2% to 7% this year. Digital revenue for b2b media companies is expected to grow 18% to 22%, according to ABM, while face-to-face revenue is projected to grow 7% to 10%.
Revenue from custom media, which both marketers and publishers often turn to when the economy slows down, is expected to grow 18% to 21%.
Alan Meckler, chairman-CEO of Jupitermedia, said business publishers waited too long to respond to marketers' shift in their media spending habits.
“Between blogs and vertical Web sites, they lost share to Web properties,” he said. “They should have been building Web sites in 1995, but they didn't, and now they're paying the price.”
Jupitermedia has just two traditional trade magazines in its stable: Dynamic Graphics and STEP Inside Design, which the company added in March 2005 as part of its $65 million acquisition of Dynamic Graphics Group.
“They're loss leaders for e-commerce,” Meckler said. “The great value of print publications is setting up other assets, whether it's breakfasts or webinars, but you need to put print in conjunction with other properties.”
Meckler added: “I can't imagine many trade magazines showing top-line and bottom-line growth anymore. Unless it's an association magazine, I would think that every b2b magazine is being wound down and will ultimately be online.” Most of Jupitermedia's business is already online.
With print advertising revenue generally in a downward cycle, publishers are positioning their trade magazines as an important piece of an integrated marketing package.
“Print still does a great job of branding and awareness and discovery,” said Robert Faletra, CEO of Everything Channel, one of four new divisions created in United Business Media's recent restructuring of CMP. Everything Channel has three trade magazines: CRN, CRNtech and VARBusiness. Print accounts for 33% of the unit's revenue, down from 44% last year, Faletra said.
As print ads increasingly are used as an adjunct to online advertising, they're becoming more sophisticated, Faletra said.
“An ad in the publication is no longer about an 800 number and "We're manning the phones,' “ he said. “Now, print can help complete the circle and send readers to the Web site.”
Steve Weitzner, chairman-CEO of ZDE, said marketers view print as one element and not necessarily as the foundation of an ad campaign. “You need to listen to customers and package different ad elements to give them results that they can use to build their audiences,” he said.
Print properties currently account for 20% of ZDE's revenue, compared with 60% for online products.
Weitzner said one advantage of print is its ability to deliver messages in an uncluttered environment. “There's something about the way you can tell a story in print and get to how an audience feels about the company that is hard to do in a momentary spot” online, he said.
Martyn Etherington, VP-marketing of Tektronix, which provides test and measurement equipment, stressed that when purchasing print ads, the “creative” takes a backseat to relevancy.
Tektronix has in the last few years reduced the number of its print ad buys from 10 to a handful, including placements in EDN and EE Times, Etherington said. Since 2004, it has bumped its online ad budget to 40%, from 5%—including search engine optimization, pay-per-click ads and banner advertising—and reduced its print budget to less than 10% from 40%.
Etherington pointed to customer research showing that print ads place 12th in the decision-making process, well below word-of-mouth marketing and the Web. For print ads to move the marketing needle, he said, the voice of the customer has to be paramount.
“Readers need to be able to read a print ad and say, "Yes, that's me. That's my problem, and I will take certain action,' "" Etherington said M