Media shifting online: IDG’s success story

There’s a fascinating piece in the New York Times looking at IDG — the world’s largest publisher of tech-related magazines — and how it has been transformed from a print entity into what has increasingly become an online-only entity:

“In 2002, 86 percent of the revenue from I.D.G.’s publications came from print and 14 percent online. These days, 52 percent of the revenue is from online ads, while 48 percent is from the print side.”

That’s a remarkable shift. In some cases, magazines continue to be printed but come together primarily online, and in other cases — such as InfoWorld — the print magazine has been closed completely and the publication is solely online. And the business is better:

“Today, I.D.G. says, the InfoWorld Web site is generating ad revenue of $1.6 million a month with operating profit margins of 37 percent. A year earlier, when it had both print and online versions, InfoWorld had a slight operating loss on monthly revenue of $1.5 million.”

There is a dark lining to the silver cloud, however — the story says that IDG’s staff levels are 50-per-cent below where they were when the transformation started:

“By then, the editorial staff was down to its current level of 17 people, about half the number in 2002, and way below the peak of nearly 100 during the technology spending boom of the late 1990s.”

Still, a fascinating tale of one publisher that took the bull by the horns and made the change deliberately. As former editor Stewart Alsop says near the end of the piece: “What’s happening at I.D.G. is a fairly accurate map for every other publishing organization. Get over it, it’s going to happen.”

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