Is the Web Replacing Security Magazines and Shows?

Author: John Honovich, Published on Sep 27, 2009

While ASIS show attendance was down and disappointing for the second consecutive year, online traffic to security websites continues to rise significantly. Regular users of online security sites now likely outnumber trade show attendees. Though the recession is regularly cited as the cause for declining trade show attendance, the migration to on-line resources continues strongly.

[Update: ASIS confirms 2009 show traffic back down to 2004 levels.]

This raises questions about comparative value and worth of these different resources.

There are a number of factors driving the growth of on-line:

Breaking News

The web is the best way to find out about breaking news and important industry events. Rather than waiting weeks for the next magazine or going to a trade show, you can learn about news the same day online. Just in the last few months, the sale of GE Security, the Cisco/Pelco partnership and the HDcctv Alliance announcement are 3 good examples.

Critical Analysis

The web offers deeper debate and analysis than trade magazines or exhibitor's booths. For instance, comments offer rich and varied perspectives. Some of the best examples can be found on the debate about BRS Labs value, the accuracy of market statistics and GE Security's sale. The web allows more people to freely discuss and minimizes the power of money to control information.

Use of Video

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The amount of security industry video produced on-line is growing rapidly. For instance, you can watch the ASIS Cisco/Pelco announcement, see demos for many cameras, or watch screencasts for any of our camera tests. Videos are clearly superior to trade magazines and begin to rival the richness of trade shows.

On-line Size Already Large

Because of these factors, the size of regular on-line readers in the security industry is already quite large. I estimate (conservatively) 50,000 - 100,000 people worldwide regularly use security industry websites. Even just for video surveillance, the number is at least 10,000 but probably more.

My estimate is far lower than statistics self-reported by many websites (which would indicate a total of 500,000 to 1 million people). A lot of people simply go to a site once in a while because of a search result or a link from a social media site. Those are not regular readers. Regular readers would be expected to visit sites frequently.

From my own statistics, approximately 5,000 people visited this site 3 or more times last month; 500 of those visited 10 or more times.  That's just 1 site that launched 18 months ago. With over a dozen major security sites worldwide, many over 5 years old, the number of regular readers is clearly in the tens of thousands - already equal or larger to show attendance which tends to be 10,000 to 20,000 per show.

Growing Quickly

In 2005, few people regularly used on-line security industry news sites. In the last 4 years, use has grown dramatically. A number of the established security sites grew 100% of more in the last year. 

Limitations Remain

However, a number of major barriers exist to the growth of on-line resources:

  • The security industry has a lot of late-adopters. Many will take years to change habits and some will only change by new people replacing retiring veterans.
  • The manufacturers still spend very heavily on trade shows and magazines. Until they change their spending habits, the tens of millions they collectively spend will bolster the traditional approaches.
  • Most of the websites are secondary properties of trade magazines and shows. They tend to be unprofitable on their own, dependent on funding from the traditional resources. If spending on magazines and shows continues to fall, this could constrain spending in developing websites.
  • Of course, shows offers personal interaction that provides richer communication for learning, deal making and building relationships. The web can marginalize the informational value of shows but the interpersonal ones.

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