Following their audience, their marketer clients and, of course, the money, b-to-b media companies have introduced a number of initiatives incorporating mobile media and social networking over the past month.
“It's part of the new imperative that publishers have to cover a spectrum of channels, devices and locations to satisfy how their audience consumes information,” said Chuck Richard, VP-lead analyst at Outsell Inc.
“There's a wide-open canvas,” said Charles Lee, senior VP-strategic programs and custom solutions at IDG Strategic Marketing Solutions, describing the opportunities he sees for media companies in social and mobile.
Here's a sample of the announcements recently made by media companies offering new social or mobile products:
International Data Group unveiled Mobile@IDG, a program that offers a dozen products and services to help marketers reach customers and prospects via smartphones and tablets.
Also at IDG, IDG Enterprise introduced Community Works, a social community product for marketers designed for both online and mobile platforms. IDG described Community Works as a turnkey solution designed to help marketers build a community-oriented site, manage the community, develop content, and monitor and interact with the broader social Web.
The Wall Street Journal launched WSJ Live, a video app aimed primarily at iPad and other tablet users. The free app delivers at least three-and-a-half hours of video per day produced by the Journal and features programs such as “The News Hub.”
The Journal also debuted the beta version of WSJ Social, an app that allows users to read, share and comment on Journal articles within Facebook. Dell Inc. is a sponsor of WSJ Social. For the first month of the beta launch, WSJ Social is available for free, courtesy of the computer manufacturer, which is the launch advertiser for the app.
TechTarget introduced Social Engage, a social media platform designed to allow technology buyers to collaborate with other buyers across different online media, such as embedded applications in syndicated white papers or rich media banner ads.
Dell is the first marketer to use Social Engage. As part of this program, TechTarget built the Dell- Empowers.com community site.
The trend of media companies' embracing social media and mobile media initiatives appears to be a simple case of giving marketers what they want.
It's clear marketers want to explore social media and networking options. For instance, an online survey of 520 marketer and agency personnel conducted in August by Bizo found that 97% of respondents view social media marketing as “more important” or “as important” to their marketing mix inthe upcoming 12 months when compared with the previous 12 months.
There's also the compelling financial case that Facebook is making for social networks, and it's a case b-to-b media companies are listening to. Facebook will more than double its worldwide ad revenue this year to $3.8 billion, according to an eMarketer estimate.
Like social networking sites, mobile continues to boom—at least as far as the number of users goes. There will be an estimated 125 million smartphones activated in the U.S. by the end of the year, according to Creative Strategies, a consultancy.
Now the question is, will these initiatives work? Can business media companies reach users and attract advertisers through these new mobile and social programs?
The initial response to Mobile@IDG has been positive. The program includes such marketing opportunities as Partnerzones, which place marketer content adjacent to relevant IDG editorial content.
“Mobile is becoming increasingly important to b-to-b,” said David Burnand, head of global marketing operations for Atos. The company recently acquired Siemens IT, which ran a mobile marketing program in Europe with Mobile@IDG. “The tech audience are disproportionately high users of smartphones, so we need to be where they source their information. The results that we achieved in our mobile campaign [for Siemens IT] demonstrated that our audience are now using mobile and that good mobile campaigns are able to generate excellent share of voice compared to traditional online advertising.”
The Journal's WSJ Live, which is primarily a mobile video play at this point, has six launch advertisers: Aetna Inc., AT&T Inc., CitiGroup's Citi Simplicity credit card, Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp., FedEx Corp. and Fidelity Investments.
Ken Doctor, an affiliate analyst for Outsell, lauded the app. “WSJ Live is a heartening reminder that legacy companies can change their spots—and quickly,” he wrote in a recent briefing. “Going from zero to 60 in two short years in news video, The Wall Street Journal ... poses this question for the rest of the newspaper industry: Why not us, too?”
WSJ Social, the Journal's Facebook app, is also off to a good start, according to Alisa Bowen, general manager of the Wall Street Journal Digital Network, who said, “There was about a 50% increase in interaction with our content by Facebook users on the first day.”
Within 24 hours of each other, both IDG and TechTarget launched community platform products for tech marketers looking to encourage peer-to-peer interaction. However, TechWeb—a key competitor to these companies—wants credit for being out in front of this trend. Four years ago, the UBM business unit launched its first custom community, Internet Evolution for IBM Corp.
In the meantime, the company created eight similar communities for marketers or groups of marketers. Last year, TechWeb launched “community in a box,” a basic approach to developing community sites for marketers.
“To us, it's a validation of the market,” TechWeb CMO Scott Vaughan said of the spate of online community initiatives. He added that a media company has to commit to providing ample resources to build a true online community where peer-to-peer conversation can take place.
“Most people just put up a microsite and try to dress it up,” Vaughan said. “You can't do that. It fails.”
TechWeb created the Enterprise Efficiency online community for Dell. Rishi Dave, executive director-online marketing for Dell, said the community has been a success. “We have registrants [on EnterpriseEfficiency.com] in the tens of thousands,” he said. “The reason why it's been a success is that it's a media company, which can create great content, working with a marketer, which knows how to build communities.”
Lee said IDG's Community Works program involves more than creating a community platform. IDG also works to ensure that the marketer behind the platform has a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other network sites. IDG strives to influence bloggers in the marketplace and also monitors social chatter using Radian6 to make sure the marketer is part of important online conversations. “It's integrated with the fabric of the social Web,” Lee said of the Community Works program.
IDG also has made sure platforms created with Community Works are ready for mobile viewing on smartphones and tablets, Lee said. “There's always a mobile component,” he said.