“The sale of Publishers Weekly and the other print publications is a clear sign about the mindset of their owners,” emailed one book editor after reading yesterday’s post about the announcement that Reed Business Information is on the market. “They no doubt believe that the future of print advertising will be bleak. And they are right! The publishing industry has its head in the sand when it comes to its future because, quite frankly, print is an endangered species. A love for books has been replaced by most people by an enduring affection for video and high-tech appliances.”
Dialing it back to the specific question of RBI, this source doesn’t think Reed Elsevier will be able to find a buyer, “because only buyers who believe that print is a growth industry will plop down the money,” she says. “Only a fool would think that print has a future that is worth paying for.” Ahhhh, but here’s something to remember: Buying RBI isn’t the same as buying a bunch of magazines. What you’d be getting is a portfolio of industry-specific information brands that are already staking out territory online. The problem with RBI, in Reed Elsevier’s mind, isn’t that it traffics in print, but that it relies so much on ads. As CEO Sir Crispin Davis puts it, “[RBI's] advertising revenue model and the inherent cyclicality fit less well… with the subscription-based information and workflow solutions focus of Reed Elsevier’s strategy.”
In other words, collecting the money for access to Lexis/Nexis and other databases upfront is a lot more attractive to Davis as a business model than trying to sell adspace in magazines where the content is increasingly being given away free. Debating the rightness of that assessment is a subject big enough for another post… like the one I’ve just written about Chris Anderson‘s Wired article on free economies.
(Meanwhile, in an apparent costcutting measure, RBI pulled out of the Quills Awards, which it had co-sponsored for the last three years.)