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ABM Spring Meeting CEO Roundtable: Ensuring future growth means more than thinking outside the box

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Naples, Fla.—B-to-b media executives need to step up their efforts to develop strategies to thrive in an industry undergoing rapid change, according to participants in a CEO Roundtable Tuesday at American Business Media’s Spring Meeting 2007.

“We’re doing fine [now] but I’m not sure we’ll grow in the future if we stay in the same silos,” said Robert Merry, president-editor in chief of Congressional Quarterly, which publishes CQ Weekly and CQ Today.

Congressional Quarterly recently created a new division for consumer publishing and hired a general manager to run the unit. Its mission, Merry said, is to target markets outside of the Beltway.

The unit has introduced a free Web site with the hope of attracting some of the estimated 60 million people who followed the 2006 U.S. elections online. “We want to drive traffic and generate revenue,” Merry said.

Carr Davis, co-CEO of Cygnus Business Media and a former e-media syndication executive, said it is past time “for our industry to redecorate.” He said b-to-b media companies must become even more customer-centric than they have been.

“Companies need to listen to what people are saying about them in blogs and wikis and create products that line up with what people need,” Davis said, adding that the coming generation of media consumers “is going to change the face of everything we do.”

For instance, Davis predicted that more b-to-b media companies would form collaborative “wikis” with their users and customers. “It’s an opportunity for users to come together and create new audiences, and with new audiences the advertisers will be there,” Davis said.

Davis and his co-CEO, Anthony O’Brien, were brought to Cygnus last summer to fire up the company’s online presence, and the duo have moved quickly to do so. For instance, Cygnus in the last few months has debuted 15 online video channels to cater to their customers in 15 markets, including agricultural, fire rescue and EMS, law enforcement and security.

A laser-like focus on customers’ needs was the major theme of the CEO panel. “The customer rules,” said Steve Palm, CEO of NewBay Media, whose products include Digital Cinematography, Government Video and Pro Sound News. “We had moved away from that at NewBay.”

Palm, who took charge of NewBay just two months ago after spending several years at Scholastic Inc., said his initial priority has been to increase the number of content management systems. He has also initiated a search engine optimization strategy and brought in new online employees. “We have a centralized Web staff to assist all of the company’s properties,” he said.

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