I had a little bit of nostalgia today when I learned the the magazine “Broadcast Engineering” was publishing its last issue this week. I remember reading it regularly in the 80s when I was beginning my carrer in television engineering. It was one of my favorite “trade magazine” at the time. I didn’t know really how long they had been publishing, but I learned it today in their short announcement that you can find here. 54 years!
54 years, wow! In the publishing world and in something as specialized as that, it is quite an achievement.
While I was not expecting that, I can’t say that it is a big shock. In fact, I was thinking about that already ten years ago. By that time, I was no longer reading any trade magazines. And the reason is simple. Trade magazine are not really doing any journalism. They serve a market that is too small and have not enough advertisers to really do real independent work. They do mostly repeat information provided by the vendors without doing their own research and analysis. When they publish columns from industry expert, those are mostly serving their own interest and they certainly will do no real harm to the publication’s advertisers.
These kind of publications were useful to the professional community before the wide use of the Internet and while the vendors didn’t had a serious presence on the Web. This was the only real way to get information about new products and development outside of the trade shows. That was a time when I was actually excited to read the new Broadcast Engineering issue. It was interesting not only for the features but also for the advertisement, to find out new things.
But with the Internet, it is now easy to learn about new products and innovations directly from vendors and industry expert and it that world, trade publication have no real places anymore. They certainly try to publish digitally but the advertising revenue don’t quite compare and it doesn’t provide for a sustainable business model. They could also try to introduce real journalism into their features but it would make it very hard for them to have advertisers although they could try to have revenue from subscriber… but this is a significant change in business model and I am not sure that there is enough demand in the broadcast community to justify it.
I will leave you on this quote attributed to William Randolph Hearst (although, its hard to find a solid source for that) “News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising”. When was the last time that you read something that qualifies as “news” according to that in a trade publication?