Trade pubs – the way to become an ‘insider…’

OK, so the name of the blog is “Inside Skiing” and the angle is that by reading this blog and commentary, you’ll gain some kind of information you might not normally run across – though these days, with news aggregators, you can literally see dozens of ski-related stories every day.

And – I’ll be honest – usually I’m commenting or pointing to a news item that has already been reported and giving my ‘take’ on it.

You might not know it from browsing the internet, but there was a time when print media was not only alive, it was immensely profitable. Among the most money-churning category of magazines was a category called “trade publications” which weren’t really of much interest to the general public. Back in the day when I delivered mail for a living, various businesses would get all kinds of trade magazines – my favourite was FCN – “Floor Covering News – a massively oversized book that was fat with advertisers from linoleum, carpet, and hardwood companies. Man, I’ll bet that thing was a license to print money.

The ski, outdoor, and action sports industries have all had similar titles in the past as well – Skiing Trade News was a biggie, Wintersport Business became its rival (but not for long). Transworld Snowboarding Business once boasted over 400 pages of ads and editorial during the heyday of the sport in the late 1980s. Trade publications  had little to offer in terms of visual appeal and design – I swear the art direction at the NSAA Journal and Ski Area Management has not changed in years, and Bob Woodward’s SNEWS looked like a mimeographed church newsletter. However, much of the information is quite useful for retailers looking to grow their bottom line through creative merchandising displays, negotiating terms with suppliers, training and retaining staff – that sort of thing.  That’s pretty much the target market for any trade pub when it gets down to it – ‘let us show you how to make money.’

The internet is actually perfect for trade publications because they don’t cost much money to put online, content is fairly minimal, and even with a weekly news cycle, breaking news can get stale fast. I love getting email updates for Ski Area Management, and the news today that Bonnier Corp is launching a Skiing Business website is definitely an interesting development.Bonnier, which killed the print edition of SKIING magazine earlier this year (where IS that new interactive magazine, anyway?) might be onto something.

Skiing Business – like its sister, Transworld Business – will be free. However, TW actually offers a print version where ‘insiders’ get content not available on the public website and that one costs money. As for Skiing Business – the selection of stories that went up today looks really promising – especially the story that compares the plight of ski retailers to the windsurfing industry a decade ago (I might tackle that one in a future Inside Skiing; it’s a bit apples and oranges to compare the two sports, actually).

What’s interesting, though, is that business intelligence (which is what a lot of trade magazines purport to ‘sell’) is worth – or should be worth – a lot of money. PR News –  aimed at (cough!) all of you flacks out there, costs $475 per year. I don’t know offhand how much SNEWS costs (now owned by Michael Hodgson) but its not something a consumer would buy unless you were a REAL gear geek. (Actually, many trade pubs will not take subs from people outside the industry). I actually wrote a couple of stories last year for TW Business and was paid, uh, zero dollars. That’s right – I ‘donated’ to the cause. So I guess I’m part of the problem.

For now, however, a hearty welcome to Skiing Business and a shout-out to the other trades. As Bill Gates once said, “content is king.”


One Response to “Trade pubs – the way to become an ‘insider…’”

  1. Clyde Says:

    FYI the conglomerate that owns Backpacker and Climbing also owns SNEWS. These days, most of the trade rags are just cheering mouthpieces for their industry. Notice how trade show attendance is always up, the outlook is always rosy, the latest products are always stellar (with a matching ad on the next page)? Seldom is said a discouraging word, seldom does reality creep into the picture, seldom is there anything on the pay-rags that can’t be found on a free site.

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