High-Tech Flux, Economy Hurt Print Media

CMP Media last week pulled the plug on LANTimes magazine just a few days after rival Ziff-Davis announced the closing of three high-tech publications and laid off 10 percent of its 3,500 global work force.
Given the flat technology ad market and continuing fluctuations in the world economy, the downward trend will last well into 1999, publishers and industry watchers said.
“It will continue through the first quarter of next year. It could last longer,” said Craig DeWolf, executive vice president of J. Brown/LMC Group, San Francisco, and Marketing Computers columnist.
The top three high-tech publishers–International Data Group in Boston, Ziff-Davis in New York and CMP in Manhasset, N.Y.–have all been off their game through the first eight months of this year. Ad pages dropped 15 percent at Ziff-Davis, fell 7.5 percent at CMP and were flat at IDG over that period compared with 1997, according to Adscope, Eugene, Ore., which tracks ad spending in technology publications.
Factors driving the decline include the inability of Microsoft, Intel and others to quickly market vaunted new products; borrowing from marketing budgets to prepare for Y2K; and wide-ranging industry consolidation that has seen big ad spenders such as Digital Equipment, Lotus Development and Apollo swallowed up by Compaq, IBM and Hewlett-Packard, respectively.
Simpler laws of business, however, may also apply. “I have been shocked by the new titles in the tech industry in the past few years,” DeWolf said. “I didn’t know how they could all survive.”
The key to survival is diversity, said IDG president Kelly Conlin, noting that conferences, trade shows and online endeavors are helping to boost his company’s bottom line.
“The shakeout helps in the long run,” said Fred Martins of Harpell/Martins & Co., Maynard, Mass. “People who are laid off start new publications” and entrepreneurial clients seek smaller agencies, he said.