The $787 billion stimulus package was seen as a gift to the U.S. economy and the companies marketing goods and services to the federal government when Congress passed it in February.
So far that package has only partially been unwrapped. And media brands covering the government market are not seeing large gains in revenue due to stimulus-related marketing spending—not yet anyway.
“Let's say the floodgates haven't opened yet,” said Tony Uphoff, CEO of United Business Media's TechWeb unit.
Advertising pages in the government category, which includes publications such as 1105 Media's Federal Computer Week and Penton Media's Government Product News, were down 19.33% in June compared with a year earlier, according to data released by American Business Media. For the first half, government ad pages were down 23.97%.
In the aviation, aerospace and military category—which is also largely driven by federal spending—ad pages were up 10.25% in June. For the first half, ad pages in the category were down 16.59% from the year-earlier period.
Although those figures are weak, they are stronger than those for the overall b-to-b sector, which is down about 30% in pages this year.
Both b-to-b marketers and media companies see strength—at least relative strength—in the government sector. There are plenty of examples of bullishness regarding government as a market.
For example, the Economist Group saw enough value in the sector to acquire Congressional Quarterly earlier this summer. And Government Executive, a magazine published by the National Journal Group, has seen its print ad pages grow so far this year.
“Print is significantly ahead [of last year],” said Matt Dunie, president of Government Executive. The magazine saw its ad pages increase from 150.50 in the first half of 2008 to 172.33 in the same period this year, a remarkable jump of 14.5% in a down market, according to figures from IMS.
In April 2008, Government Executive launched a Web site called NextGov.com to cover the “technology and business of government.”
Other companies have also introduced new products. TechWeb, in conjunction with O'Reilly Media, staged its inaugural Gov 2.0 Summit this month in Washington, D.C. The event, which focused on “transparency, participation, collaboration and efficiency at all levels of government,” was sold out, with about 800 attendees. It attracted 20 sponsors, including Google and Microsoft Corp. “That was more than we budgeted for,” Uphoff said.
Booz Allen Hamilton was another sponsor of Gov 2.0. Walton Smith, a senior associate at the government consulting firm, said the event attracted attendees who are trying to adhere to the administration's efforts to make government more open and its use of data more efficient.
EffectiveUI, a company that helps design and develop Web sites and user interfaces, is a relatively small business, with 15 clients. Through its sponsorship of events such as Gov 2.0, it is pursuing more governmental customers. “Three years ago, we had one governmental client,” Rebecca Flavin, CEO of the company, said. “Now we have three.”
McGraw-Hill Cos.' Engineering News-Record, which covers the construction industry, in February dedicated a special issue to the stimulus package in which it estimated $130 billion of the money would go to construction. “We did get some advertising uplift from some companies that want to associate their brands with the stimulus package,” said Paul Bonington, McGraw-Hill Construction VP-media sales.
Bill Wolpin, editorial director of Government Product News, said the effects of the stimulus package are slowly coming to fruition. “The situation is the classic six blind men holding a piece of the elephant and wondering what it is they have,” Wolpin said. “It's gradually becoming clear what the stimulus package is and what it's not. Only a small portion of it will be going to public works.” M