B-to-b media companies brace for ‘tough’ year

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New York—B-to-b media companies face a “tough” year, as the economic slowdown puts the squeeze on marketing budgets and pressure on publishers to provide more solid ROI to clients, according to panelists who spoke Thursday at DeSilva & Phillips’ sixth annual Media Dealmakers Summit.

“I think we’re in a recession,” said James P. Dolan, chairman-president-CEO of Dolan Media Co., which targets professionals in the legal, credit, finance and construction markets. “The service part of our business is doing well. Advertising and circulation are doing well, but it will be a tough year.”

Joe Loggia, CEO of Advanstar Communications, agreed this will be a tough year. He said Advanstar this year is focusing on events, which are “much more recession-resistant” than traditional print advertising.

Loggia added that while ROI is easier to demonstrate with events and digital assets, there is still value in print. “You have to arm your team with tools so they can go out there and position what a product can do not as a supplement, but [as something] complementary,” he said.

Dolan stressed that in the current climate, it is crucial to maintain and cultivate relationships. “Relationships haven’t been more important,” he said. “They make revenue more secure.”

With regard to the b-to-b media M&A marketplace, Loggia said that if the asset “is in the right market, there’s a lot of attention to the product and it has the right team, we’ll go after it pretty hard.”

On Monday Advanstar acquired CBI Research, which provides live and online conferences for senior-level executives in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

—Matthew Schwartz

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