November 6, 2014 Last Updated 9:07 am

For some B2B publishers growth in desktop rather than mobile remains a top priority

Catching readers of trade publications at work may require balancing the publisher’s desktop and mobile web traffic strategies

A funny thing happened when creating a quick study of TNM’s recent web traffic: desktop readers surged versus mobile. That was odd, I thought, then dove into the numbers more, called colleagues and found that this was not such an unusual phenomenon.

Although many trade publishers were hesitant to speak on the record about their web traffic (more on that later) they understood what was happening.

“When we started to put more content on our website, created some blogs, ran more press releases, we started to see a jump in readers during the day,” one publisher of an industry magazine said. “Those readers were more likely to be sitting at their desks.”

Another publisher of a landscaping publication (well, sort of) said this was true for them, and couldn’t be.

“We struggle to grow our website traffic simply because so many of our readers are out of the office working jobs during the day. We grab them at night. We have found that if we get increased traffic it is from mobile during the morning and afternoon and then tablets at night.”

For TNM, the spike in desktop readership is probably closely tied to Google’s decision a year ago to include this site in their Google News search results. Prior to that, traffic from search had to come from searches, in general. The first spike was seen in mid-September and has been constant since then. But, besides growing traffic, the main change in the past year has been in desktop readership.


One publisher said that while mobile remains a high priority for them, the desktop remains a serious area of focus. “We want to reach the person sitting at work. We’re a business magazine, if we can reach them between 9 and 5 we have a great story to tell our advertisers,” one publisher of a design industry magazine said. “Every loves mobile today, but when we looked at the numbers we had to rethink things a bit. If we redesigned our website for mobile, without taking into consideration our desktop readers we might be slitting our own throats.”

One publisher said the key number for them was at first “New Sessions” – were they able to reach new readers? But then, after a year or so, they realized that if the total percentage of readers were new to their site they might be failing to get readers to return.

“It’s kind of a chicken or egg thing, isn’t it?” a friend said. “You want new readers, but at some point your website better be good enough that those new readers return. When they do your percentage (of ‘New Sessions”) starts to fall.”

Web traffic stats are a tricky thing at many B2Bs. At one media company I worked at I eventually found that the numbers I was being given were completely fabricated, made to look like the person in charge of our websites had any clue what they were doing.

But one sad fact is that web traffic to many B2B magazine websites is shockingly low. Few like to talk openly about the problem for fear of sounding like a failure online, but they really shouldn’t. A little research would reveal that they are not alone.

“I hate looking at the numbers,” one publisher said. “But then you realize that you are niche publication. If you have a circulation of 20,000 or so, how many of these readers go to your website on a daily basis?”

But the difference in website traffic between industry segments is startling. AdAge and AdWeek, two industry magazines covering the advertising industry, are also highly popular websites, in general. But several popular construction trade magazines look anemic in comparison. The reason is obvious when looking at the sites and the emphasis on quality and quantity of content on each site.

“I think we all get hung up on the web traffic numbers,” said a trade publisher. “I’ve lost lots of sleep over our numbers. Now I just try to see the trends – are we growing readership online or not? If so, I sleep a little better.”

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