03 September 2008
Herbert Lechner, novum 09/08
Herbert Lechner

This article originally appeared in novum 09/08 and was republished with permission.

In the crowded, fast-moving media world, corporate publishing has rapidly emerged as a major and decidedly energetic player. Once a year, under the title '
Best of Corporate Publishing', this branch of the publishing industry holds a competition and a congress at which it celebrates the field, honours outstanding work, and draws attention to recent major innovations within this dynamic sector.

Above: Three of the 'Best of Corporate Publishing' 2008 Gold winners.

With nice timing ahead of the sector's annual jamboree, the first survey to be carried out by the European Institute of Corporate Publishing has just appeared - and for the moment has generated a mood of high optimism within the sector. According to the study, the market in German-speaking countries for corporate publishing media comprises something like 15,000 titles. The total divides fairly evenly between two main categories, with 7,200 titles addressing consumer target readerships, and 7,700 designed for business customers. These figures are well above all earlier estimates and empirical data. The same applies to circulation figures: the total per issue, counting all publications together but regardless of individual frequencies, amounts to 780 million copies, of which 640 million are B-to-B and 140 million copies are B-to-C. Even if quarterly publication were taken as the mean, these figures would represent an annual print volume of 3,100 million copies.

The study just published is Part One of a phased project. Its analysis of the customer magazines' market is to be followed next year by Part Two, which will report on employee communication, corporate books und company reports.

The data presented so far are enough to provide the first clear statistical evidence of the boom in this media sector. "This first research phase confirms the view that corporate publishing has become one of the most important of all communicative disciplines," says Clemens Koob, Managing Director at Zehnvier, who were commissioned by EICP to carry out the study. Koob estimates annual investment in the B-to-C and B-to-B printed magazine sector to be running at about 2,200 million euros currently - and rising!

The point here is that at present only 25 per cent of B-to-C and 15 per cent of B-to-B magazines are produced using genuine CP specialists capable of editing and project management, not merely layout and graphic design. And that's not all: the study found that a quarter of all the companies are aware of this shortfall and accordingly intend to collaborate more intensively in future with these highly specialised service providers. It is a fact that the level of professionalism brought to bear is a key determinant of success or failure.

Above: Three of the 'Best of Corporate Publishing' 2008 Silver winners.

Professionalism pays off
One aspect of corporate publications that has steadily improved in quality over recent years is visual appearance. This year's competition results confirm the trend. To put it in context: corporate magazines have to compete with magazines bought over the counter, and also fulfil an important role in nurturing client loyalty. Clearly, therefore, it is imperative for the visual image of any CP organ to reflect what is most distinctive about the company it showcases. A glance at this year's prize-winning publications confirms how well this can be done. And there is endless fascination in the sheer protean variety of design approaches.

In the longer term, of course, attractive design on its own will not suffice to hold customer loyalty. Communication strategies have to be developed for the long term and effectively implemented, which will often mean a multimedia approach. The achievement of synergy between visual qualities and content, entertainment and information - and also between print and electronic media - is a key area. This is where the specialists are needed. The foremost talents among them are members of the relevant interest group, Forum Corporate Publishing (FCP), which is now the largest European body concerned with this sector.

Media mix
Another point too gives reason for optimism. Digital media are indeed becoming more significant in this sector, as elsewhere; but here it is not in fact simply a case of playing catch-up. The crucial point is that print still dominates: 77 per cent of companies continue to invest in print-and-paper publishing. Helmut Schneider, a professor at the Steinbeis private university in Berlin, considers it "interesting that budget transfer within CP from the traditional print medium to new media is relevant for only 23 per cent of companies." Or in simple terms, funding of digital media is not happening at the expense of printed publication.

The reciprocal influences of print design on online design and vice versa in Corporate Publishing were also the subject of a Design Summit - this was the third to be held - taking the form of a joint conference bringing together the Akademie des Deutschen Buchhandels (Academy of the German Book Trade) and the FCP. Among CP clients, there is strong demand for expert guidance on the effective deployment of electronic media. The Design Summit was seen from its inception as an expert forum: it offers intensive experience-sharing in discussion with leading specialists in all types of design, and it attracts a correspondingly high-powered panel of speakers. The same is true of the other joint-participation events focusing on various individual aspects of Corporate Publishing.

Above: Three of the 'Best of Corporate Publishing' 2008 Silver winners.

Bright prospects
The detailed survey and the competition showed how significant the still young CP sector has become, and also confirmed some general developments in the media field: for instance, there is a clear trend towards closer interlinking between different media, and another to still narrower segmentation of the company publications targeting customers. Almost one company in three plans to cater more closely to the needs of its individual target groups. The overall count of CP titles is thus set to go higher.

Finally, experts are predicting the emergence of yet another growth market. Hitherto, they point out, the sales potential latent in CP media has remained largely untapped. As yet only a small minority of businesses use CP for actually selling - whether to other businesses or to the end consumer. There thus seem to be good grounds for the CP sector's current mood of confidence - expressed notably in the motto chosen for this year's BCP Congress 'Corporate Publishing goes global: Brand Journalism for a changing world'. It will be worth watching the horizon for new stars!