Tipping point season – digital sales bolster analogue

InformationWeek business publisher and events organiser UBM on Wednesday became the latest to report what, for some, is now becoming a trend: “As expected, UBM’s online marketing services revenues exceeded print revenues for a full reporting period for the first time.”

It is the latest media industry tipping point I have observed in the last couple of quarters:

Warner Music Group, Axel Springer and Future all recently reported digital revenue gains had made up for declines in sales of analogue content.

Restoring revenue to growth despite ongoing analogue contraction is a long-held light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel milestone in media’s journey.

But, although UBM saw Q1 digital revenue (up 11.2 percent to £21.9 million) overtake actual print revenue (down 37.5 percent to £21.9 million), this was not enough to stop its combined print and online marketing services revenue falling 18.7 percent over the last year.

And the majority of Warner, Springer and Future is all still analogue, despite having been stabilised by digital gains.

UBM, led by CEO David Levin, has, over the last couple of years, bought heavily in to delivery of virtual events like conferences, career fairs and communities.

At the same time, it has actively been off-loading some of its 90-plus print magazines, including its French medical publishing business, its UK titles for farmers, doctors, music industry professionals, publicans and others.

This deliberate print downsizing is part of the reason UBM’s Q1 print revenue fell so far.

“We believe print magazines continue to play an important, albeit significantly diminished, role in serving specific professional and commercial communities,” according to UBM’s website.

“We recognise that many professional and commercial communities are over-served with print publications such that available advertising revenue – the principle funder of controlled circulation magazines – is sufficient only to support one or two leading print titles in the longer term.

UBM says Q1 adjusted operating profit is up 25.8 percent to £56.1 million on 11.1 percent higher revenue of £264.2 million.