The news that McGraw-Hill is trying to sell BusinessWeek, "McGraw-Hill Is Said to Be Seeking a Buyer for BusinessWeek," tells us something imporant about the media business -- something that you won't find inside the pages (hardcopy or otherwise) of BusinessWeek itself.
It's that the Great Recession has not started rebounding.
Circulation for BusinessWeek is holding steady at about 900,000, but advertising is declining.
BusinessWeek is a great publication, does a terrific job covering news and trends. And its website and BusinessWeek Exchange community are very popular.
Doesn't matter, though, because advertising pages has dropped 40% since 2004.
Here's what Peter F. Appert, an analyst at the Piper Jaffray Companies, said to the New York Tmes about the potential sale: “It certainly makes all the sense in the world for them to sell it, even though in my view there is likely to be minimal proceeds, if any. There could be buyers, if the definition of a buyer is someone who’s willing to take it off their hands.”
That last part of his statement is worth repeating: "There could be buyers, if the definition of a buyer is someone who’s willing to take it off their hands.”
What that tells us, unfortunately, is that BusinessWeek is in trouble. That a high profile, important business publication will be spun out, its future uncertain under new owners looking for a bargain.
It means, if McGraw-Hill feels it makes sense to ditch BusinessWeek now, that we're far from being out of the woods, that a recovery is not just around the corner.
Meanwhile the list of failed magazines continues. Former Mets (and Phillies) Lenny Dykstra had filed bankruptcy, and shut down his finance magazine, according to Forbes. "Dykstra Done In By Debts: Ex-ballplayer goes bust, owes millions after failed investment in glossy finance magazine for pro athletes."
In the short-term, we should expect further belt-tightening at the BusinessWeek and other major publications -- that layoffs and offers for buy-outs will continue, that print will continue to look for ways to shrink their publications to save money, continue to look at ways to increase revenues (the problem with a recent Washington Post pay-for-access salons), and that more publications will shift to an online-only business model.
What that also means for PR functions is that the competition for ink will continue to be tough since the number of organizations trying to get into a publicaiton seems to be holding steady while the number of actual pages is shrinking.