BtoB

‘Billboard’ sounds positive note for brand, advertisers

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John Kilcullen, publisher of Nielsen Business Media's Billboard, doesn't mince words when asked how the 113-year-old publication has been able to buck the general downward trend in print ad revenue.

"I don't subscribe to the notion that a media property is b-to-b or b-to-c," said Kilcullen, who is also publisher of The Hollywood Reporter and president of Nielsen Business Media's Film and Performing Arts Group. "The position we take is that we're a global brand which attracts the 17-to-34-year-old demo and the decision-makers" in the music and entertainment markets.

It is a philosophy that has served Billboard well during the past tumultuous year, which saw then-VNU acquired by a group of private equity firms. In January, the company changed its name to Nielsen Co.

Kilcullen has orchestrated a series of brand extensions that helped Billboard, a weekly, close 2006 up more than 11% in ad revenue over 2005. Circulation reached 23,000, a 10% hike from 2005. Magazine subscriptions rose more than 10%, while Billboard Mobile subscriptions in the U.S., Canada and Japan now surpass 25,000.

Both sponsorship and conference registration revenue were up more than 60% last year.

Billboard's year-end issue carried nearly 80 advertising pages, one of its biggest issues since 1996.

Kilcullen attributed the brand's growth to paying close attention to shifts in how—and where—information about music and entertainment is being consumed.

"We study markets by consumption and discovery," Kilcullen said. "If our brand is synonymous with the global music and entertainment industry, we should be consuming Web sites and opening live music venues."

Kilcullen has made efforts on both fronts—and then some. Last year Billboard augmented its online presence by, among other extensions, adding its famed music charts to the music downloading service Microsoft Zune and to TouchTunes Music Corp., which offers digital downloading of commercial jukeboxes.

The publication has joined forces with MSN to introduce Billboard.Latino.MSN.com, and aligned with Vocus Inc. to create Billboard Publicity Wire, an entertainment and music promotion press release service.

Last July Billboard bought Radio/Records, a weekly trade magazine that tracks radio airplay, and in November relaunched Billboard.biz, which caters to b-to-b sectors within the music and entertainment fields.

Billboard has also established a presence in Japan. Last year it signed a multiyear deal with Hanshin Content Link to allow Billboard Live nightclubs to open in the second half of this year in six Japanese cities, including Fukuoka, Osaka and Tokyo.

"Billboard has done a fantastic job of executing what everybody else in b-to-b media is talking about," said Kathleen Thomas, managing director of media investment bank Berkery, Noyes & Co. "It's touching everybody it needs to touch and providing information to the market in whatever form it needs."

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