B2B Media CEOs Optimistic; Revenue Still Driven by Print Ads

May 5, 2014

FOLIO-B2B-Media-Revenue-Breakdown-2013-2014-May2014Print advertising remains remarkably resilient as the dominant revenue source for B2B publishers, according to the latest annual B-to-B CEO Survey from FOLIO: magazine. CEO respondents to the survey reported a majority 52.5% of their revenues deriving from print ads, relatively unchanged from 2011. And that revenue share isn’t holding steady among a shrinking pie: only 4% of respondents said they lost money last year, while 85% see revenue increases on the horizon this year.

Interestingly, respondents attributed a smaller share of revenues to digital media this year than last. Among those with less than $5 million in revenues, digital media comprised a reported 13.3% of total 2013 revenues, down from 15% in 2012. And for those with more than $5 million in revenues, digital media’s 18.4% of revenues in this year’s survey was down from 20% the prior year.

Despite that, respondents from both groups said that digital media was the fastest-growing part of their organization’s business last year, followed by events and print advertising. And CEOs expect digital this year again to be their fastest-growing revenue source, although their growth forecast appears dampened relative to past years.

In fact, FOLIO:’s analysis of the survey indicates that over the past 5 annual surveys, respondents have consistently over-estimated digital’s revenue potential while under-estimating print ads’ potential.

(ABM’s tally of B2B media industry revenues from 2008 through 2013 can be accessed here.)

Still, there’s no doubt that digital media revenue growth will continue apace. According to data contained in a new MarketingCharts Debrief, Reaching and Influencing B2B Buyers and Decision-Makers, B2B media users are as likely to consult digital properties as they are to read print magazines. Moreover, media users are more likely to see industry websites than print magazines as important for finding new product/supplier info and for researching work-related purchases, and decision-makers are far more likely to turn to websites than print magazines for those purposes.

Returning to the FOLIO: survey, events are also a growing part of the revenue equation for publishers, comprising 9.6% of total revenues for smaller publishers and an average 16.1% share for larger publishers. Additionally, sales from data and market information have grown to account for 3.8% and 5.2% share of revenues for smaller and larger publishers, respectively.

Other Findings:

  • Only 9% of respondents did not make an investment in technology last year, down from 18% last year and representing a 5-year low.
  • Meanwhile, the percentage of respondents spending more than $25,000 (44%) on technology hit a 5-year high, as did the percentage investing at least $500,000 (8%).
  • With profit margins averaging 19% in 2013, data and market information sales were publishers’ most-profitable area, overtaking digital media.
  • Almost half – 46% – of the respondents expect to launch a new event this year, up from 32% last year.
  • 2 in 3 respondents said their companies have a responsive design site, a dedicated mobile site, or both. That overall average masks a significant disparity between smaller and larger publishers, though: more than 4 in 10 smaller publishers still haven’t adopted mobile, versus just 7% of larger publishers.

About the Data: The survey sample of 1,000 was selected in systematic fashion by FOLIO: and Readex Research from all of FOLIO:’s domestic subscribers with executive management job titles who classified their company’s primary focus as either b-to-b publishing or a mix of b-to-b and consumer publishing on the FOLIO: subscription form. The survey closed March 14, 2014 with 125 usable responses””a 13 percent response rate.

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