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At ABM Executive Forum: For business publishers, data may be destiny

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Business publishers need to step up their efforts to develop new business models focusing on data services and subscription-based products as some traditional b-to-b media products continue to erode. That was the consensus during American Business Media's Executive Forum this week in Chicago. The theme of this year's conference was “Drive Recurring Revenue: Paid Content and Business Information Models,” and there was no shortage of recommendations on how publishers can generate new revenue streams, particularly when it comes to building (or buying) data products that are immune to the vagaries of the advertising market. Abs Kotulski, VP-strategy and development, commodities and commercial markets at McGraw-Hill Cos., stressed that creating data services and related products will require b-to-b media companies to make some wrenching changes. “If you're a traditional media business and moving into data information, I think it's much more challenging; and many of you are probably in that situation,” he said. “In that case, you're looking at building entirely new teams, with very different skill sets. It's a move from editorial to much more [of] a product approach, where you have people who have more of a software background and a need to innovate.” Kotulski added: “It's not just providing the data; it's really being able to build either a work flow on top of it or analytics to give new insight. Again, focus on what is it you're providing the customer and how is it in their work flow. Is it a nice to have piece of information or is it a must-have? That's a critical question you have to ask yourself.” Another speaker, Tim Baskerville, a business information consultant and board member of HG Data Co., said that in creating data products b-to-b publishers have to consider scale. “Margins, once you got the operation up and running and stable, can be highly attractive,” he said. Having a subscription-based model forces editorial teams to create must-have content, said Andrew Sollinger, managing director-the Americas at the Financial Times, which for years has deployed a metered model for its website. “It's very measureable how well their content is selling and how the market values it,” he said. Clark Pettit, president-CEO of ABM, said b-to-b media companies can ill afford to wait for the new business publishing models to mature. “When disruptive transitions happen, the old models die before the new ones emerge,” he said. “In b-to-b [media], we're seeing new models and new revenue streams try to replace old models, but the new models aren't fully baked.”
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