Government media aren’t dodging the recession — 1105 Media decides not to publish this week’s GCN
If you’re looking for your Jan. 26 issue of 1105 Media’s Government Computer News today, don’t hold your breath — I what I believe is a first in the publication’s 26 year history that ofGCN, the magazine did not publish a scheduled issue. Why? The horrible, terrible, awful advertising market.
1105ers have been told that advertisers are waiting until February — or later in the year — for advertising buys. (The government market has traditionally been defined by what publishers call the “hockey stick” — there is a spike in advertising in the months before the end of the government’s fiscal year on September 30 when advertisers are looking to get in front of readers right around the time they are making buying decisions. As most of us know, most government funds are ‘use it or lose So there was an opportunity to avoid losses, and that was just too much to pass up. They have been told that things seem on track for the rest of the year, but I’m guessing nobody is doubling down.
I have no doubt there was some debate how how this would look ‘in the market.’
This recession has been tough on many markets — the financial markets have been ransacked, of course… the housing market… the list goes on. But I would argue that few have been as hard hit as journalism — to the point that some have suggested that it might be time for a journalism bailout bill. I’m not sure how exactly one measures the difference between a recession and a depression, but… in my many years in this business, I’ve never seen anything like it. And it has struck just about every organization — the Tribune Company, purchased by SamZell , has filed for bankruptcy protection… the Wall Street Journal was sold to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp… even the vaunted New York Times and Washington Post have been struggling. All of journalism is under intense competitive pressures right now — and I mean intense. Print journalism, where I have spent most of my career, has been struggling with how to monetize the Web — print ads carry pay for most of the infrastructure, but they they don’t have the cache that they once did, yet Web ads don’t nearly cover the expensive costs of a news gathering organization. So print publications put more online, where more eyes are, but nobody has yet to figure out a workable business plan.
I share BusinessWeek’s Steve Baker’s hope that journalism will come through this stronger. “All kinds of opportunities are going to come out of this. The money’s a mystery, a course. That’s part of what makes the movie scary,” he writes.
In previous recessions, government publications have been somewhat protected — I say somewhat. During the dot-bomb period in 2000-2001, there were tough times and some belt tightening — even some layoffs, but — as awful as it is to say, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks brought a lot of money into the government market. And just about anybody who was somebody started a homeland security publication of some kind. But the market has been tough for awhile, but I’ve never seen anything like what we’re seeing right now.
Back in October, we reported that two government related publications shuttered.The big IT publisher, CMP, has all but eliminated Government VAR, essentially merging it in to VAR Business giving it token attention on a government business section on their Web site. But many of those have not been the big government publications. The big books are 1105 Media’s Federal Computer Week, Government Computer News and Washington Technology — and, of course, the respective Web sites, FCW.com, GCN.com, and WashingtonTechnology.com; Atlantic Media’s Government Executive with its two Web sites — GovExec.com and the tech focused NextGov.com; and there are the suite of Army Times Publishing publications including Defense News and Federal Times, among others. And then there is AFCEA’s publication, Signal magazine. (By way of disclosure, I used to work for 1105 Media as the editor of Federal Computer Week. I currently write a column for Signal magazine.) And, of course, in the state and local market, there are a handful of publications, the big one being eRepublic Inc.’s Government Technology. (Disclosure: I have a column that will be published in the coming issue of Government Technology’s sister publication, Public CIO.) There are others, but… those certainly are the big guys.
In my scan of the most recent issues of 1105 GovInfo’s publications, the ad rundown:
Washington Technology’s January issue: 2 ads in a 36p folio
Government Computer News’s January 12 issue: 3 ads
Federal Computer Week’s January 12 issue: 2 ads in a 36p folio
I don’t have the print issue of Government Executive. If somebody has one and can count the number of ads and let me know… The big difference is that Government Executives is essentially a monthly. They pushed up to 24 issues for one year, and have backed off of that since then. This year, it is essentially a monthly with a few “special” issues.
The government market is not alone, by far. Other publications — and tech publication — are also hurting. The February issue of Wired magazine has 114 pages, the smallest I’ve seen.