According to the 2,288 manufacturing managers and engineers Gardner Business Media surveyed for their 2015 Media Usage research study, 86% ranked trade magazines as their number one and number two choice with regard to “effectiveness in terms of finding information.”

© Gardner Business Media

Asked what type of trade magazine content delivery they preferred, 55% of these managers and engineers said “print magazines.”

© Gardner Business Media

When I first wrote about Gardner’s survey data, I took the information about print magazines with a grain of salt. Gardner is in the business of producing print publications, I thought, so their survey results would tilt toward print.

Since writing that post, I’ve visited a fair number of small manufacturers. The one thing I see, no matter the size of manufacturer or job shop, is trade publications: on lobby coffee tables; in the bathroom; on the shop floor. More important, I see them on people’s desks and credenzas.

Trade publications, despite the digital revolution (or maybe because of it), are seemingly thriving, thankyouverymuch.

To see if my assumption was correct, I spoke with Rick Kline, Sr. CEO of Gardner Business Media.

Print ad trend: smaller, full-color

I specifically wanted to know if Kline had seen any trends with regard to print ads. Were advertisers running more or less? Were they using QR codes or no? Based on the publications I read, it seemed more advertisers were running smaller ads.

Kline confirmed my hunch and noted the growing use of full-color quarter, half-page, and island ad sizes. These ads get placed adjacent to editorial versus being stand-alone, the way full-page ads are. Thus, they’re more noticed by readers. And while the size is smaller, advertisers do pay a premium to run these ads in full color.

An example is the one-third page ad my client Kays Engineering ran in SME’s Manufacturing Engineering’s Westec Preview issue.


Print advertising ROI – Does it exist?

The perceived lack of ROI with regard to print advertising is what keeps more companies from advertising. Yet smaller manufacturers and job shops will spend thousands of dollars on a 10’ x 10’ tradeshow booth – which may or may not deliver ROI.

According to Kline, the more savvy advertisers use special phone numbers or URLs to track visits to a company’s website. “Many of our customers do measure traffic and get inquiries,” he said. (I covered this topic a couple of weeks ago in my post about print ad calls-to-action; link below.)

“With print advertising, you can run your ad during months when editorial is more appropriate to your products or services or you can run an ad consecutive months. You can also take advantage of special tradeshow issues. The point is, print advertising is quite economical cost-wise, when compared to a tradeshow, and gets your company name in front of thousands of people – and for months after the publication has been printed.”

“Print exposes people to things they don’t know.”

Like all publishers, Gardner has the challenge of providing its message the way its audience prefers it. Delivery can happen on a tablet, a website, a smartphone, or print. “The device is the medium,” said Kline. “Print is a medium, too, and our audience does prefer it. The medium is important but what’s more important is the content.”

According to Kline, trade publications give readers information they often don’t know about.

“Trade publications, and Gardner’s in particular, are filled with how-to information, application stories, and case studies. Our editors go out and talk to manufacturers and engineers to hear their success stories and challenges. Our editorial stresses new technologies. We want to help our readers improve their plants and be more competitive here in the U.S. and around the world.”

The difference between a print publication and a search engine, according to Kline, is that print is a “push” medium while search is a “pull” medium.

With a search engine, you don’t know what information you’re missing because unless you know about something, you don’t know what to search for. And, with the search filter bubble, you may be exposed to content which by-and-large fits your worldview — thus precluding you from learning something new that’s outside your existing perspective.

With a print publication, the information comes to you.

“Print exposes people to things they might not otherwise know or learn,” says Kline. “It’s one reason why people prefer it. For Gardner, we use the ‘push’ of print to deliver information readers will only find in the magazine.”

To ascertain readers’ needs and challenges, Gardner set up a LinkedIn Group open only to owners of small shops (no vendors or advertisers). “We simply listen to what these owners talk about,” says Kline.

It’s due to these reasons, and others, that the company has seen a 150% growth in print advertising in the last six years.

“We know our readers are older and that the younger generation is moving up the ranks,” says Kline. “We’re very aware of the technology mediums people use to find information. It’s why we’re converting our websites to responsive design. But, technology is still just a medium. What really counts is the content – and in that, we’ll continue to remain focused on providing the application notes and technology stories our readers can’t find anywhere else.”

Article citations

2015 Media Usage in Manufacturing Report, Gardner Media

Manufacturing Buyers Read Print Trade Magazines (Shocking!), Huff Industrial Marketing blog post

Creating People Friendly Calls-to-Action for Manufacturing Print Ads, Huff Industrial Marketing blog post