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ABM conference examines Web impact from many angles

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The Internet is transforming every functional area within print-dominated b-to-b media companies—as well as the future viability of each company—with remarkable speed. American Business Media’s Digital Velocity event, held March 28-29 in New York, addressed the breadth of these changes in more than a dozen educational sessions. Through it all, one question was ever-present: How do we do this?

Digital Velocity, ABM’s first two-day event focused exclusively on e-media, attracted more than 200 registrants from traditional b-to-b media, digital-only media, vendors and investment bankers. Titles of ABM members in attendance reflected their range of responsibilities: CEO, CIO, COO, president, publisher, editor, Web director, advertising director, online sales director and VP-audience development, along with the leaders of various companies’ e-media initiatives.

Toni Nevitt, chair of ABM’s Digital Media Council and former VP-emedia strategy and technology at Nielsen Business Media, emceed the event. Like many digital media leaders, Nevitt’s job evolved over time without a roadmap.

“I have a circulation background, so it was a matter of following the audiences we were serving in print and events online,” she said. “We didn’t know what we didn’t know [about the ever-evolving online world]. We didn’t understand how quickly we would have to react to things, nor did we understand that it’s a continual process.”

Peter Goldstone, president of Hanley Wood Business Media, said his company initiated “an essential reorganization of our business six months ago.” Among the factors that prompted the reorganization, he said, was that the company “could not move forward” if it didn’t offer online career opportunities for all publishers, editors and salespeople rather than a select few in the emedia group.

Thomas Falconer, director of Web publishing for Source Media, noted that many b-to-b media companies had put the development of their online business on the back burner after the dot-com bubble burst in 2000. Although many of these publishers’ sites from the late 1990s were frozen in time, “the visitors to those Web sites had changed tremendously,” he said.

In a panel discussion on the new valuation paradigms necessitated by e-media, Tad Smith, CEO of Reed Business Information, said he looks at five to 10 companies a month as possible acquisitions, but “I’m not looking at print at the moment because we’re looking for revenue growth. Print is in a gentle state of decline.”

The consequences of sitting on the sidelines of the e-media revolution affect not only a media company’s revenue but also its value. “If you have no online business right now, you probably could not be sold,” said Jay MacDonald, partner-digital media & technology at media investment bank DeSilva & Phillips.

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