Purchasing: Burying the Corpse (But Licensing the Tombstone)

The past few weeks have seen many news outlets and technology vendors – yes, technology vendors -- make a run at Purchasing Magazine's overall assets, including their associated content and mailing lists. Yet for some reason, Reed decided to close the publication's doors for good yesterday rather than sell it to a third party or the former Publisher (as they did in other cases with their recent breaking up of their trade publishing group). Purchasing will now only live on in "list format," which Reed will sell to interested parties to spam and kill trees as they see fit. In a communication to potential purchasers of the Purchasing asset -- Spend Matters was one of them yesterday -- Reed suggested, "Over the last few weeks we have sold the majority of the IP associated with the discontinued RBI-US publications to RBI-US management. Ownership of the remaining brands (Chain Leader, Converting, Graphic Arts Blue Book, Graphics Arts Monthly, Purchasing, Restaurants & Institutions and Trade Show Week) will remain with Reed Business Information and will be used to generate qualified leads through Mardev DM2."

This communication put the nail in Purchasing's coffin. It was a move I was actually surprised by. In my view, Purchasing had much to offer readers and advertisers going forward, albeit in a different format with lower costs (including more selective press runs targeted towards a specific audience). Moreover, with the number of buyers interested in the asset, Purchasing must have had a good reason for not going though the machinations of selling the thing. Perhaps this is explained by the relative high costs of renting their lists (we looked at the price sheet yesterday and may, in fact, selectively rent parts of it ourselves) and the profit that Mardley DM2 can drive to Reed from these rental efforts.

Still, all Reed has left now is a declining asset that will face a relatively short half-life. The website and print subscription is what allowed Reed to keep up to date information on subscribers to sell to those interested in buying access to the readership. Now, with no content carrot to dangle to readers to keep information current, the names, titles and contact details will quickly become stale as readers change roles and switch companies. I give the list only 24-36 months until it's pretty much worthless (moreover, I'm sure those on it will not be excited knowing that they're names are being sold with no further benefit to them).

All in all, it's a bit of a shame. Mark Twain once remarked: "I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." In this case, my letter is not in the mail -- nor is the latest issue of a trade publication that I enjoyed whenever I got a free moment to open up the pages and smell the ink. All I've got left is the chance to send out high cost (nearly 50 cents a pop) spams to the former Purchasing online mailing list. Which, by the way, I just learned yesterday contains nearly 30,000 individuals, making it only 200% larger than the combined Spend Matters / MetalMiner list (which surprised me, considering that our list has grown by 85% in the past year). This gives me confidence in starting to more aggressively market new content (e.g., Spend Matters webinars) to our audience starting later in the year, with the expectations of achieving a larger number of attendees than before.

- Jason Busch

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