Clark Pettit joined American Business Media as president-CEO in 2010. As the economy recovers, ABM has seen a rise in its membership, improved financial performance from its core media members and the implementation of a plan to work with other media and marketing associations to produce joint events. Pettit recently discussed the many reasons he's optimistic about this year.
Media Business: ABM's recent Business Information Network figures showed revenue gains online, in print and for events for b-to-b media companies. Has the b-to-b media sector recovered?
Clark Pettit: It feels like the worst is behind us in several senses. No. 1, the overall economy is beginning to recover or at least stabilize, and we're looking for moderate growth, barring any major shock—even accounting for Europe as long as it isn't a drastic negative impact. B-to-b in particular has turned a corner. Over the last couple of years, businesses have diversified and are getting a lot better at the execution of some of the new capabilities, especially in digital, lead generation and audience database. I think, finally, most of the companies have been through the worst of the restructuring. They're beginning to be able to invest for the future.
MB: How well is ABM's strategic plan of working with other associations progressing?
Pettit: We've got the strategic alliance agreement in place with SISO (Society of Independent Show Organizers) and have already had several planning sessions on joint events. We will have one of some degree in 2012. We're still outlining exactly how that will work, but we're definitely going to proceed with some joint cooperation around events. Same with the Custom Content Council: We have a strategic alliance in place, and we're in the earlier stages of conversation about how we can cooperate. I think there's a lot of synergy there, probably again involving cooperation in event programming.
MB: The b-to-b media sector has seen value destruction initiated by online businesses, particularly from search advertising. Do you see another round of value destruction coming from social and mobile media, or do you think your members are well-positioned to battle these new threats?
Pettit: In the last two years we've seen a dramatic shift in the ability of b-to-b companies to adopt new ways of reaching their audience and add value to that. Our businesses are becoming marketing intelligence businesses with a deep understanding of their vertical audience and how to interact with and reach that audience. I don't see social media, for example, as a threat. I see it as an opportunity. It's one more capability that can be added on.