Statistics related to custom publishing, custom media and ‘content marketing’ in the U.S.

Over on the Custom Media Craft blog on Hammock.com, I just posted some highlights from the annual survey conducted by the Custom Publishing Council called “Characteristics Study: A Look at the Volume and Type of Custom Publications in America”. (Note: Hammock Inc. was one of the founding members of the Custom Publishing Council). According to the survey, in 2007 a record number of marketers used custom media to promote their products and brands. Personally, I believe the numbers are still conservative as there are lots of online “content marketing” activities taking place that fall through the cracks of this research. For instance, most of the digital startups that have content creation for marketers (i.e., video distributed online) as part of their business model should probably be covered in this research — but aren’t.

One thing this survey underscores is a statistic that doesn’t click with many of my friends in the magazine and media industry who think of the magazine format as being, exclusively, a business model (i.e., consumer of B2B magazines). The magazine format is not just a business-model, it supports and serves other business models. I typically use university alumni or association magazines as examples here, but think of all the institutions and, now, companies, who use magazines and other media they create as platforms for fostering long term relationships with their constituencies (customers, alumni, members, supporters, etc.). While there are probably (and I’m guessing here) less than 20,000 magazines that have advertising and circulation-revenue as the focus of their business models, this survey indicates there are 143,173 magazines in America. Even if my number is low and their’s is high, the truth of magazine publishing is this: Most magazines in America “support” a business model — they aren’t a business model.

This is an important fact to consider when thinking about the “business model” of another media: blogging. Today — and forevermore — there will be only a small fraction of blogs that are, themselves, a business. The vast majority — as in 99% or more — of business-related blogs will support a business model (or a cause or institution or campaign), not be a business model.

Another thing: I confess: As much as I enjoy publishing — indeed everything about — magazines, I’m also very-much a new-media guy. I believe content-marketing, custom media, social media, conversational media — whatever you want to call it — should be front and center in any company or institution’s marketing effort (our company works with clients in doing just that). I see no “competition” or “conflict” or “irony” in me advocating new media while still championing the magazine format as the most compelling engagement media available.

At Hammock.com, view statistics and highlights from the Custom Publications in America survey.

  • I see your point with regard to magazines not being a business model per se, but what about those 20,000 or so magazines that do rely on advertising and circulation revenue… what about the magazines that are a business model? From where I stand they seem to be in serious danger (ok, maybe not imminent danger, but eventual danger). Without the inherent support that comes from being an ancillary to another, profitable business the pure ad/circ based magazine will start to feel the effects of an unsustainable and wasteful supply chain. Rising paper, fuel and postal costs will hurt these publishers first and their only course of action will be to try and keep pace through their rate card. At some point the engagement benefit of the magazine will be eaten by the cost of being in print and advertisers will seek refuge in cheaper digital products. If/when that trend starts it will only be a matter of time before it jumps the wall and infects the custom space as well.

  • Rex Hammock

    Thanks, Michael. I didn’t mean to imply — but I obviously did — that magazine companies should just depend on ad-pages and circ revenue for their survival. I believe strongly that is NOT the case and have blogged often about how B2B media companies, especially, have moved beyond the “page” in their business models. Magazines “fit” within a business model in many ways. Sometimes they serve as the foundation on which businesses are built. More likely today, they fit as one of many facets of a business.

  • I totally agree with you on the moving beyond the page deal… but with that being said, my main question is this (and I apologize if this isn’t exactly pertinent to the original post): how much of a role do you see magazines playing in the mix as we move forward? Personally I fear that paper is just not a sustainable piece of the puzzle… at least not the way we do it today. Unless we get some good old change happening soon there must come a point at which it just won’t be worth it to do ink on paper.

  • Rex Hammock

    I totally agree there are many magazines that package up information that is better distributed online. Those kind of magazines will go away. Magazines are a great story telling, brand building and engaging media. I’ve written on this topic lots of times over the years of this blog and once was interviewed on this exact thread of questions. Here’s that interview.

  • Rex…first off, you are dead on with your take on “supporting a business model’. Second, I think this is the first time you actually used the term “content marketing” freely…must have killed you. Third, I was wearing your Hammock T-Shirt today. Gray is the best!

  • Rex Hammock

    @Joe, re: “content marketing” — I’ve said before that I will follow the market. Also, I learned a long time ago to write on this blog in a search engine friendly way so if someone who is looking for a custom magazine searches for “content marketing” then, hey, here we are.