ABM management meeting looks at ways to keep print relevant

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Discussions of how to maintain and grow print were front and center at American Business Media's Top Management Meeting last month in Chicago.

Several panelists during the two-day conference spoke of how, despite the acceleration in all things digital, print remains integral to b-to-b publishers' brands.

"If someone is going to spend an hour with your publication, you better make sure it's great," said Peter Goldstone, president of Hanley Wood Business Media, who participated in a panel discussion titled Keeping Magazines Hot.

Goldstone added that media products should have a "symbiotic" relationship regardless of the platform. "If you have lousy magazines, you're not going to get any traction on your Web site, and you're not going to get anyone to go to your events," he said.

Last year, Goldstone oversaw the debut of Architect, one of the year's biggest b-to-b print launches and Hanley Wood's springboard into commercial construction markets. In early 2008 the company plans to introduce Green Products and Technology.

Mike Reilly, president-CEO of Randall-Reilly Publishing, which covers the trucking and construction industries, noted during the same panel that in the past two years Randall-Reilly Publishing has introduced three print products: Next Truck, Total Landscaping Care and Transportista.

Although Reilly said he is budgeting for fewer ads in 2008 because of rising fuel prices, he warned his publishing colleagues against scaling back too much in what is expected to be an economic slowdown next year.

"In a down market, you have to steal share," he said. "You have to knock on a lot of doors and look for opportunity instead of `woe is me.' "

But while Reilly encouraged business publishers to practice what they preach when it comes to "media agnosticism," increasing digital revenue was clearly top of mind during the meeting, which drew about 300 senior media executives, media bankers and vendors.

B-to-b media revenue projections for 2008 reflect the trend. Digital revenue is expected to grow 18% to 22%, while face-to-face revenue is expected to increase 7% to 10%, said Gordon Hughes II, president-CEO of ABM, during his opening remarks.

Custom media, which publishers often turn to in greater numbers when the economy starts to soften, is expected to grow 18% to 21%. Magazine revenue is expected to drop 2% to 7%. "We're looking at a good year, albeit a challenging one," Hughes said.

Several of the work sessions during the meeting focused on how business publishers can capitalize on the growth rates online and in events.

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