Like others in the industry, I was surprised and saddened to hear that Reed Business Information-US was shuttering Tradeshow Week magazine and its website. For 40 years Tradeshow Week has been a major source of news and industry statistics for the people who own and put on trade shows.
I will miss Tradeshow Week. There are some great people there I hope will be able to land on their feet. TSW research was extremely useful, be it on industry trends, show growth, show size, labor costs, and international exhibiting. It was like having a top-notch personal research assistant on staff — for about $400 a year.
Most of all, Tradeshow Week did a LOT of custom research and publishing for Skyline Exhibits, partnering on 7 excellent white papers. I’m proud of the trends and best practices we uncovered in each of these papers, which provide key insights to thousands of exhibit marketers of all stripes:
- Manufacturing & Industrial Exhibition & Event Marketing Trends
- Medical & Healthcare Exhibition & Event Marketing Trends
- Information Technology Exhibition & Event Marketing Trends
- Professional & Business Services Exhibition & Event Marketing Trends
- International Exhibiting Trends & Outlook
- What’s Working In Exhibiting
- The Trend to Custom Modular Exhibits
I’ve been looking for the reasons for the closure, and for the deeper meaning of it. While some might think TSW’s closing is a harbinger of the fate of the overall trade show industry, I think it more to do with 4 other market forces, including the strength of trade shows:
1. A Stronger Competitive Magazine
I mistakenly thought Tradeshow Week would always remain a healthy publication because they not only did made money on ads, they also charged around $400 a subscription. However, Michelle Bruno recently noted that their subscription base had recently slipped below a thousand (yes, a thousand, that’s not a typo).
TSW’s high subscription price gave clear entry from Trade Show Executive, a free monthly magazine published by TSW alumna Darlene Gudea. Trade Show Executive has grown to a much higher circulation, with over 5,000 subscribers to their thicker magazine.
2. Growth of the Internet
To keep themselves relevant in the internet age, TSW’s website has much of their magazine’s content online for free, although you needed a subscription to search the archives. The record has been pretty clear: ads on websites don’t pay as well as in publications.
Plus, TSW’s flagship directory, the Trade Show Week Databook, had been challenged by TSNN.com’s free online database that has similar, albeit much less detailed info. That probably forced TSW to put their directory of shows online, available for free, and lose more paid subscribers.
3. Other Sources of Industry Research
Over the last few years, CEIR, the Center for Industry Research, has expanded their research beyond their usual value of trade shows core, to include research about the growth (or contraction) of the number of exhibitors, space, and attendees. That research is right in Tradeshow Week’s wheelhouse.
4. Strength of Trade Shows and Events
This is the main reason TSW’s closure is not a bad sign for events. According to American Business Media, there has been a shift in revenues for media companies from publishing to events over the last 15 years, hastened by the internet. Look at IAEM’s Expo! Expo! Attendance at the show that serves the same market as Tradeshow Week has remained steady with audited attendance in the 1,900-range for 4 of the last 5 years.
On LinkedIn there was an insightful comment (I can’t find it now — if it was your comment let me know!) that the magazines that survive are ones that support a trade show. For example, there is a strong symbiotic relationship with Exhibitor Magazine and The Exhibitor Show: Subscribers see ads, mailers, and emails inviting them to the show, and conversely, show attendees tell stories to the magazine’s writers at the show that feed future articles in the magazine.
So what does it mean? It doesn’t mean that trade shows are terminally damaged – the same markets TSW covered are still well served by Trade Show Executive and Expo! Expo! , which is actually a trade show. It just means that the traditional business model of magazines is threatened. And that’s not really news; it’s only news when it strikes close to home.