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ABM Annual: Conference highlights challenges, opportunities for b-to-b media

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San Francisco—The final day of American Business Media's Annual Conference held here featured a score of speakers outlining a host of opportunities—including apps, big data, lead generation, paid content and real-time data—for business media companies. But the speakers also cautioned that challenges lurk in taking advantage of these opportunities. “I have to be very thoughtful about the opportunities I chase,” said Peter Westerman, chief audience officer at Summit Business Media, who spoke at the conference. In his presentation, Westerman, who had held a similar position at Ziff Davis Enterprise, offered a cautionary tale about that company's sale to QuinStreet, which ultimately valued the lead-gen database much more than it did the media brands that created the database. “It was really breathtaking to see that happen,” Westerman said. Before its sale, Ziff Davis Enterprise abandoned print and embraced all-digital publications. In retrospect, Westerman said it would have made sense for Ziff Davis Enterprise to keep at least one print publication and CIO Insight would have been his choice, because it reached an older audience who still read ink on paper. Frank Cuttita, former general manager of IDG's database marketing and lead-gen division, outlined the opportunity in big data. Now CEO of the Center for Global Branding, he advised b-to-b media companies to not be intimidated by the term. “Evolve small data into big data,” he said. Cuttita recommended that b-to-b media companies start with data audits and content audits to see what insight can be gleaned from subscriber databases and other basic information publishers have on hand. He cautioned, however, that for a company to truly take advantage of big data requires two often incompatible departments, IT (which he called “the land of slow and no”) and marketing (which he called “unguided missiles”) to work together. Another speaker, Gordon Crovitz, co-CEO of R.R. Donnelly & Sons Co.'s Press+, which has provided metered model subscription software to hundreds of media companies, disputed the Internet maxim that “information wants to be free.” He countered, “Information wants to be paid for if people want to pay for it.” The undercurrent of the conference was that digital's impact on business models was not going to stop and may only be accelerating. In his presentation, Andy McLaughlin, president-CEO of PaperClip Communications, said that “digital natives,” people born after 1977 and for whom mobile and social media are second nature, make up about 42% of a typical b-to-b media company's audience. Digital natives, he said, “are your customers of tomorrow.”
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