• When the dust settles: Photonics B2B Publishing after the crisis

    At this year’s Photonics West meeting, I went around and collected some of the current B2B magazines and (with a sigh of relief) I saw that they are picking up again. In case you hadn’t noticed, leading titles such as Laser Focus World or Photonics spectra had shrunk by almost half. Before the crisis, they were  150 to 200 pages long. Now they have a hard time to fill more than 100.

    Clearly, B2B magazines in the photonics field were heavily hit by the crisis. They depend on advertising sales ,and marketing budgets were the first to be cut when orders dropped in 2008.

    Now that the crisis is over, it is time to look at the changes. The biggest loss is certainly Optics & Lasers Europe. ole vanished from the market, the rest of the print version have been bought by Europa Science,  electro optics magazine’s UK based publishing house. optics.org, which served as the portal for ole, has been given back to SPIE and is  flourishing again, although they lack an appropriate print product.

    As I said, the American journals have been badly hit. Laser Focus World (Pennwell Publ.) significantly downsized. Industrial Laser Solutions, my most respected colleague David Belforte’s journal, went from 12 to 6 issues per year, and shrunk to leaflet size .

    The market leader, Photonics Spectra (Laurin Publ.), and its spin offs are not doing much better. The flagship content fell by a whopping 50%, and spin offs such as EuroPhotonicsstopped circulating as independent print issues. The publishers promised a recovery, and after some time appearing as Photonics Spectra, EuroPhotonics will re-appear this year in two separate print editions.

    Apparently, the more science related titles BioOptics World (Pennwell) and Biophotonics International (Laurin) have survived without significant attrition.

    To my surprise, German magazines were much less influenced by the crisis. None of them disappeared, and they issued the same number of copies. Even EuroLaser (Schlütersche), from which editor Franz Gruber left in 2008, has survived  and has a new team. Photonik (AT-Fachverlag) and Laser + Photonik (Hanser) have kept their international editions. AT-Fachverlag (Photonik) has even nurtured its spin-off BioPhotonik, whereas Hanser has stayed with its Laser in Production. These are small titles compared to their American competitors, but nevertheless, they have gotten over the worst.

    So the good news is that advertising revenue is up again. The bad news is that it does not look as if the budgets for print ads will return to their previous volumes. It is too early to judge where the money is going, but certainly advertisers are paying more attention to online activity. Newsletters, webinars etc. are flourishing. Entirely new forms of communication, such as blogs or tweets, still have to show how they can contribute to magazine revenue . So I can’t see anything in my crystal ball, it just seems clear that the concept of publishing financed by advertising is changing significantly.

    The next blog entry will shed a bit more light on Photonics & Social Media.