Specialist publishers, such as those of us in the funds industry ‘trades’, have thought that we may well be the last people standing as the digital revolution rolled over generalist magazines and newspapers first. That may still be true, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not a difficult market segment.
Last week was the last for the Insto Report, a well-regarded weekly newsletter for big super funds and other fiduciaries and managers. Founding editor Wouter Klijn will join conference producer Teik Heng Tan at the Investment Innovation Institute (i3) in the new year.
The Insto Report was the most direct competitor of Investor Strategy News, but there is no joy in its passing around this office. The others remaining in the institutional and wholesale (platforms and multi-manager) space are ASFA’s Super Funds, Cirrus’s Super Review, Conexus’s Investment Magazine and Sterling’s Investor Weekly. Financial Standard and the other dailies cover both institutional and (mostly) retail.
Klijn was formerly the editor of Investor Weekly, which dates back to 1994, but formed Insto Report in November 2012 under publisher Darin Tyson-Chan’s Benchmark Media group.
The basic reason for the difficulty of publishing any investment title is that traditional display advertising has dropped away in favour of ‘native advertising’ (sponsored content), public relations and free content placement. There is also a plethora of new content recipients. Readers either cannot discern the difference between quality journalism, which is time-consuming and therefore expensive, and wire services, or they don’t care.
And here’s another reason: the advertising agency cult of the click. In his autobiography, economics writer Ross Gittins ponders the future of proper journalism and suggests that media companies need to take control of the metrics they give advertising agencies. At the moment agencies demand opening and click-through rates and page impressions. That’s fine, but the agencies seem to be more concerned about the raw numbers than an assessment of who they represent.
Here’s Gittins’ example: two readers go to SMH.com.au; one is looking to read Gittins’ latest column and the other is looking to read Peter Fitzsimons’ sports column. On the way they are both waylaid by a story on Britney Spears’ latest drama and spend a few seconds on that before moving on to read their favourite columnists’ latest words of wisdom. The scores presented to the advertisers are: Britney Spears 2, Gittins 1 and Fitzsimons 1.
I enjoyed listening to Wouter’s views on this, probably because I agreed with most of them. He would say that if you wanted to maximize your clicks in the institutional investment space you would publish only appointments and mandate news. No well-researched analyses of investment strategies, political manoeuvres or industry views and trends. Was this really doing the readers a service?
Most publishers get an increasing proportion of their revenue from events, such as conferences. Benchmark does too, but these are in the retail and SMSF sectors, supported by its retail titles.
The institutional conference market, which Wouter is about to join, is also a tough one but margins are a lot better, especially overseas, than in media. The three main commercial conference providers are CIE (Centre for Investor Education, which is owned by Institutional Investor), Conexus and i3.
Teik was a senior investment conference producer at Institutional Investor in Asia and Australia before joining Conexus in 2011 and producing that firm’s first international conference for fiduciaries, in Beijing, and then forming i3 in 2012.
* Greg Bright is publisher of Investor Strategy News (Australia)