Readership of Hardcopy and Digital Media – How This is Evolving and Its Implications

Recent research, The Construction Media Index (CMI), provides valuable insight into the communication channels used by construction decision makers. As part of this Architects, Contractors, Housebuilders, Offsite Manufactures and Builders Merchants were asked about the construction trade journals they read. This guest blog, by Anna Hern of Ridgemount PR, presents some of the findings and considers the evolution of journal readership, from print to online and what this means for the construction marketer.

The end of the road for Print?

Perhaps the most surprising characteristic of the print journals is their tenacity. Despite two decades of the limitless resources of the internet we are still reading them. In some audience groups (look particularly at architects) readership of print journals has remained pretty consistent since the first CMI research in 2011.

And it could be argued that the influence of the trade publishers has actually increased in the last six years. The combined online and print readership numbers for established titles show that in some cases the audience is larger now than in 2011 (check out the housebuilders).

Either way, this year’s research reveals that 86% of respondents still read the content provided by specialist publishers: a hefty majority and a pretty compelling justification for continuing to support the publishers for a while yet.

What has changed dramatically is the choice of information sources available. The stand-out figure from the 2017 research must surely be that more people now use social media for work (89%) than read the trade journals.

This is a marketer’s dream. We can deliver our own content to our target audience with more accuracy than ever before without the moderating influence of those independent-minded journalists and, for the first time, we can actually see who’s reading it.

Campaign reporting will routinely contain reader numbers; now these numbers are less focused on how many readers could have read the content and more on exactly how many did read it, how long they spent reading it and what they did next.

There is nowhere to hide in this environment and, bypassing the journalists, organisations need to focus on the quality of information they are sharing. Publish a piece of content that is badly targeted, badly written or (worst of all) boring and you will be punished immediately. Not only will you not get the numbers you want for that piece of content but a combination of the “unsubscribe”, “unfollow” and “unlike” options will immediately reduce your audience. There are precious few second chances in the online world.

And in that online world, we make our own editorial choices – both consciously in the content we choose to read and unconsciously in the information that we unwittingly pass on about our interests, views and reading preferences. As every platform struggles to deliver exactly what its users are interested in, so the content that is presented needs to be targeted ever more precisely.

For marketers this has to mean a much closer focus on content. Web content designed to attract relevant search engine users (and yes, optimising web copy is really important), social media posts written specifically for each channel and audience group, ezines with challenging, thought-provoking and relevant leader articles.

Get it right and the results can be truly astonishing. In this heady environment it can be tempting to believe that the publishing houses have had their day and that the provision of information, insight and analysis can be left to the marketers. But before we write the requiem for trade publications, let’s just remember not only that 86% of any target audience is an impressive majority but that trends can change fast.

Those independent journalists with their irritating habit of asking probing questions and looking at both sides of an argument have served society well and in a climate of growing disquiet over misinformation and fake news, we may well see a resurgence of interest in independent information sources.

Whether that information is delivered in print or online is largely irrelevant, the really interesting trend to watch over the next two years will be the use of independent, journalist-led news sources. In the meantime, the marketer’s best resource is the capacity to create and disseminate high quality engaging and persuasive content.


Author – Anna Hern, Ridgemount PR
Ridgemount PR run effective and thought provoking public relations campaigns in the UK construction industry and beyond. They ensure your organisation is being talked about by the right people in the right places in the most positive way possible.