China is poised to move to online publishing at a much faster pace than other countries where print has more of a foothold. That was one of the key take-homes from the FIPP World Magazine Conference, which was held recently in Beijing.
Although print magazines have a long history in China — the first was published in 1872 — the present offering of upscale consumer magazines, many tied to international partners, is only around two decades old.
Nevertheless, there are an astonishing 9,500 magazines published in China today, so digital media will have their work cut out making much of an impression and today they still only account for around 3% to 4% of revenues for big consumer-oriented publishing groups, delegates were told.
Nevertheless, digital media have already reached a tipping point for IDG, the US-based business-to-business publisher of technology titles and information.
Patrick McGovern, founder and chairman of IDG, said that, in the US market, the absolute growth in IDG's digital revenues is faster than its loss of print revenues, which are dropping about 7% year-on-year. Today, 35% of IDG's domestic business comes from online, by 2010 that number is estimated to be 50%.
EngagingChina has had the pleasure to interview McGovern in the past and he is a widely respected figure in B2B publishing industry both internationally and in China.
IDG has been a pioneer in China and McGovern remains very bullish on China not least because of the much lower labour costs. He said IDG had investing $13m in eight Chinese companies and enjoyed a ROI of 30 times.
Like other speakers, McGovern referred to the importance of the mobile channel in China. Two thirds of the 1.3bn population are expected to have mobile devices by 2020 and an equal number having internet access, so publishers who fail to embrace the new media are missing out on a new way to communicate with readers of their offline titles.They are also missing out on new revenue streams, as advertisers are often quickest to embrace and monetise digital channels.
More the FIPP event in this story on the Magazine Publishers of America website.
Elsewhere on the publishing front:
Contrary to popular belief, offline media like trade publications and trade shows dominate China's B2B sector with a 72% market share while online media accounts for 25%, says a report from Analysys International. Other key findings show foreign trade-related advertising accounts for about 70% of total China B2B media revenue. Total B2B advertising is expected to top 9.3bn yuan in 2007, up 25% over 2006 . Analysys says foreign B2B media firms have a “distinct competitive advantage” over their domestic brethren when it comes to selling to China's domestic B2B market, which is still young.