Following the lead of tech media companies such as International Data Group, United Business Media and Ziff Davis Enterprise, many traditional trade publishers have announced new marketing services businesses in recent months:
Northstar Travel Media, publisher of Travel Weekly, created a strategic marketing business unit.
Penton Media bought a digital agency called EyeTraffic and subsequently announced the launch of Penton Marketing Services.
Summit Media Group, publisher of Packaging World, announced a custom content unit.
The topic of business media companies offering marketing services is in the air.
During a panel discussion at this month's Business Marketing Association annual conference in Chicago, representatives from three business media companies discussed their forays into marketing services.
One panelist was Kim Paulsen, the head of Penton's new marketing services unit, which is built around the recent acquisition of EyeTraffic. She said marketers are asking for these services.
“Their websites stink,” Paulsen said, and they are seeking help with tasks such as search engine optimization and lead nurturing.
At American Business Media's annual conference, held last month in Austin, Texas, almost every session focused on marketing services. In one panel, Andy Goodenough, president-CEO of Summit Business Media, which publishes National Underwriter Property & Casualty, said his company's advertisers weren't ready for marketing services to the degree that the early adopters in the tech sector were. He also said marketing services isn't the new concept it's cracked up to be. Many business media companies have offered marketing services such as research and custom content for decades, he said.
Nonetheless, an increased urgency surrounds marketing services as b-to-b media companies must replace the revenue that has evaporated with the drop in print advertising pages. As b-to-b marketers increasingly rely on Internet marketing, they need more content to fuel these digital programs.
“We feel content marketing is the key to Internet marketing,” Dave Newcorn, VP-digital and custom media at Summit Media Group, said during another session at the ABM conference.
As business media companies increase their marketing services offerings, they bring themselves into more direct competition with advertising agencies—which may or may not pose problems.
Addressing the ABM conference, Chuck Richard, VP-lead analyst at Outsell Inc., presented research that found 85% of b-to-b marketers plan to use media companies for marketing services this year, while 80% plan to use agencies for such services. Last year, 72% of b-to-b marketers surveyed said they used media companies for marketing services, compared with 86% that said they used agencies for such services.
(The data can be found in Outsell's “6th Annual Advertising & Marketing Study.” The study, conducted online in January, drew 1,012 U.S. companies as participants, including 681 b-to-b marketers.)
“Publishers have some golden assets,” Richard said. He pointed to media companies having the capability to deliver integrated media campaigns as an advantage. Their ability to deliver a segmented audience is also a plus, he said.
But in an on-stage interview during another conference session, Tom Stein, president of marketing communications agency Stein+Partners Brand Activation (formerly Stein Rogan+Partners), described some of the hurdles b-to-b media companies face in their sprint into marketing services. He said ad agencies have the advantage of working with a single company in a particular industry, while publishers work with a host of competitors. This structure will make it hard for media companies to have “strategic” relationships with marketers, he said.
Another hurdle is that ad agencies are moving into custom content and audience development. Stein said his agency has formed a custom content group, called Kilter, and has also built programs to generate audiences for marketers.
Gary Slack, chief experience officer of marketing communications agency Slack & Co., also cautioned business media companies about pursuing marketing services. “The grass is not always greener on the other side of the street,” he said. “Our business is good for about 15% margins. It's not as green as it may look.”