The £23.5 acquisition by Metropolis of the heritage Emap business magazines from Ascential, the FTSE-250 media company, has taken a while to filter through the market. But make no mistake, it’s great news for journalism, for the worlds of construction and architecture (covered by these titles) and especially for competitor titles, such as EG and Building.
There were howls of discontent when Metropolis acquired Property Week (PW) from United Business Media, another listed media firm, a few years back. But since then, it’s been remodelled, and is run with the kind of youthful vigour that makes its new sister titles Architects’ Journal (AJ) and Construction News (CN) similarly popular with the areas of the built environment they represent. The consistency and quality of the major business stories broken each week by EG and PW are testament not just to quality of the journalism or the sheer bloody-mindedness of just how much you can do with a small team, but to the importance of a thriving trade magazine sector.
Having seen some of the woeful B2B titles that exist in other sectors I’ve worked in, such as music and aviation, its always been noteworthy just how far above the curve business mags across property, design and construction are and have long been. This has been no more evident than over the weeks following the Grenfell Tower disaster. Trade journalists across Inside Housing particularly, have been running rings around many national titles which are blessed with far more resource. They’re able to do it both because they are sector specialists and great journalists.
One of the biggest failings around that tragedy was the failure of any local press to put the spotlight on council failings highlighted by the tower’s residents across countless blogs and complaints. Local press has been decimated in recent years much to the detriment not just of communities, but to the media professional at large. Like B2B titles, they have been a breading ground for amazing talent that is now much harder for titles to find.
Newspapers like the FT, Telegraph, Times and Evening Standard have been stocked full of former property and retail trade hacks over the years. And where would the current crop of senior trade journalists be without the skills they soaked up from past-masters such as former PW editor Giles Barrie or former EG editor Peter Bill?
It’s perhaps somewhat fortunate that, despite the great digital strides being made by many trade titles, such as EG, with its swanky new website and swish app, most print titles are safe for now. We’re fans of EG’s recently-updated approach to news, which doesn’t jettison important stories from print purely because they’ve been mentioned earlier on in the week. The assumption that people only want to read bitesized articles these days is a falsehood; analysis rules. It’s been a bugbear of mine for years.
And anyway, many of the pale, male and stale readers of business magazines aren’t about to jettison the celophane-wrapped pleasures of print in favour of Web-only fulfilment, no matter how many versions of the iPad they may own.
Navigating the internet has been tricky for all heritage media platforms – particularly niche titles that don’t have the scope to run click bate or pay writers peanuts as many consumer media outlets are regularly accused of.
Indeed, the catastrophe of the world of infinite choice that has garroted the music industry is slowly, and painfully working its way across the media at large. Luckily, B2B magazines are able to offer a real USP to readers through specialist knowledge, insight and value-added advice along with an increasing array of events.
The challenge for newspapers is how they get readers to pay for stuff they can largely access for free via the BBC, PA or Reuters, should they wish. Maybe its all about blockchain, or perhaps some unilateral agreement across all main media outlets? I guess if I had the answer, it’d be me buying Sky and not Rupert.
While no one likes monopolies, the benefits of Emap, one of Britain’s best known and respected magazine brands, being saved are many. Journalists we know and love sparring with each week, but respect massively, across the AJ, CN, EG, IH and PW, together with Building and Drapers, are some of the best in the business.
We hope Metropolis will be able to realise the economies of scale from owning 11 new print titles, and particularly the sharable benefits from having a core set a brands covering the built environment. It’s a vote of confidence that should further support the investment and indeed the growth that U.K. business journalism deserves.