Sources close to Gadget4 have shared that the consumer tech lifestyle magazine will stop publishing either after the March or April 2010 issue.

The closure of this consumer tech lifestyle magazine will mark the end of an era of tech magazines at CR Media.

CR Media held the license to PC World Singapore in the 90s until IDG Singapore decided to launch PC Advisor in the early 2000s.  CR Media then switched to the PC Magazine license but ended it last year when PC Magazine decided to go 100% online.

PC Advisor was closed within a year and IDG Singapore sold of most of its enterprise tech licenses, including Computerworld Singapore and CIO Asia, to Fairfax Media in Asia.

I was told that the sales team might be switched to the other publications but the fate of the editorial team is unknown.

Singapore is, therefore, left with T3 Singapore, Stuff Singapore, HWM Singapore and Digital Life as the reminding contenders in the consumer tech lifestyle print market. Note that HWM Singapore and Digital Life is part of Singapore Press Holdings and Digital Life is a supplement of The Straits Times, a Singapore daily.

I am deeply sentimental to CR Media because I started my career at PC World Singapore then.

The closure of Gadget3 has highlighted two things.

First of all, the tech industry has not grown over the years with the major players relatively the same players. Hence, not only were there less pies to go around, the pies were getting smaller and smaller by the day.

Secondly, the value of the print ad, to both the consumer and the vendors, have shrunk exponentially. For example, let’s say a print ad for a 12 months campaign is at SGD12K a year, I believe the vendor would use the SGD12k for more direct marketing activities, like events or even social media outreach.

The question here would then be how can such niche print publications survive? The easy answer would be to go online, but that posses other problems as banner ads are not really attractive to vendors here.

I feel the answer for niche publishers is for them to offer social media marketing activities as part of the revenue source, and slowly replace ad revenue as the main source of revenue as time passes by.

Publishers should combine their experience as content managers and take a leaf out of the new PR book to offer brand journalism to the individual vendors.

For example, a publisher could start a Facebook fanpage or blog which focuses on digital photography and to have a brand sponsor the content of the fanpage.

Within the fanpage, the publishers can link content to articles about how to take great photographs, or the best way to care for your digital camera or to interview the brand’s experts on digital cameras.

As the fan base grows, the publisher can organise events for the fans, cover the events, do an event write-up with photos that tag the fans or the participants if they are part of Facebook.

Tech enterprise publications can also do the same. For example, they could start a fanpage of cloud-computing and put every single news about cloud-computing in that page or interview experts and put content there. If a vendor comes along to sponsor the content, then focus on the vendor instead.

Isn’t this brand/corporate journalism part of PR? Yes, but as PR evolve to survive, so must the publishers. If Jeremy Woolf of Text100 says how corporate journalism can fill the gap of traditional media, why can’t the print publishers join the foray too?

The line is already blurred who should be handling social media. The PR agencies say they can do it, so do the ad, media buying and online agencies. So why can’t publishers go the same route?

In general, for niche publishers or print publishers to survive, they have to evolve to find new value for their vendors in terms of marketing and advertising. Print may not die or go extinct anytime soon, but it doesn’t mean the money for it will continue to exist forever.

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