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B-to-b media companies seeing surge in online advertising

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The outlook for online advertising has grown rosy over the past few weeks.

There were 1.1 trillion online display advertising impressions in the U.S. in the first quarter, an increase of 15% over the same period in 2009, according to comScore.

Similarly, a report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers found that Internet ad revenue in the U.S. totaled $5.9 billion in the first quarter, up 7.5% from the year-earlier period.

Also, research firm eMarketer revised its forecast for U.S. Internet ad spending upward to 10.8% growth this year compared with 2009. The researcher had predicted in December that U.S. Internet ad spending would increase only 5.5% this year.

These reports focus heavily on consumers, which raises the question: Are b-to-b media companies experiencing the same upsurge in online advertising? Our queries of a cross section of b-to-b media executives indicate that online advertising is indeed growing in the sector.

At Ziff Davis Enterprise, which publishes eWeek, CEO Steve Weitzner said, “Our online advertising through May is up significantly—58% over last year’s same period.” He noted, however, that ZDE’s online ad revenue was hit hard last year, declining as much as 40%.

“Our advertising has ‘recovered’ to numbers in line with 2007 and 2008,” Weitzner said.

In the agriculture sector, Andy Weber, CEO of Farm Journal Media, also reported gaudy growth when comparing this year to 2009. “We budgeted overall online digital revenue up 52%, of which online advertising as a subset is budgeted up 38%,” Weber said. “Year-to-date through April, we’re tracking 11% ahead of budget on overall digital revenue, and about 8% ahead on online advertising revenue.”

As Weber’s answer indicates, for most b-to-b media companies online advertising is just a portion of overall digital revenue, which can include webinars, e-mail newsletters, lead generation and virtual trade shows. Many b-to-b media companies are seeing broader online marketing revenue increase as well.

InformationWeek, part of United Business Media’s TechWeb unit, is a case in point.

Advertising on the InformationWeek Business Technology Network was up 28% in the first four months of this year compared with the same period in 2009, the company reported. InformationWeek’s overall digital revenue, which includes online advertising as well as digital events, custom media and digital issues, was up 33% in the same time frame.

Canon Communications Chairman-CEO Charlie McCurdy said his company’s digital and data revenue is expected to increase 15% to 20% this year. “We’re seeing good growth in the medical design and manufacturing sector and in Asia,” McCurdy said.

Randall Friedman, group publisher at Lebhar-Friedman, said the company’s flagship publication, Nation’s Restaurant News, “is experiencing digital revenue growth north of 40% this year versus 2009, and the big driver is display advertising. In our foodservice business, a tipping point has been crossed. The vast majority of our top clients are running digital programs whereas only about half did last year.”

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