Two b-to-b media organizations historically print-centric took further steps this month to adapt to the increasingly digital world.
BPA Worldwide, generally known as an auditor of trade publications and other controlled-circulation magazines, announced last week that it is testing a new audit format called the Brand Reach Audit. With this new audit, BPA will verify the audience a particular media brand reaches via its magazine as well as its related Web site, e-newsletters, conferences, trade shows and white papers.
“As the media industry continues to evolve, it is clear BPA's role will rely on reporting a brand's entire impact in the marketplace, rather than individual platforms or silos,” Glenn Hansen, BPA's president-CEO, said in a statement.
Similarly, American Business Media, originally an association for trade publishers, last week unveiled a change to its Business Information Network, which up to that point had measured print advertising and trade show marketing expenditures. As of this month, the BIN figures now include b-to-b digital spending.
Using ABM's new BIN format, the b-to-b media sector looks a bit healthier. When using only print figures for the first two months of 2009, the BIN numbers showed a decline of about 30% in advertising revenue. However, when ABM added trade show data in March, the BIN numbers started to show some improvement. While print revenue was still down by 26.1%, print and trade show revenue combined was down only 22.9%.
Now with digital revenue factored in, the industry looks better, at least in comparison with the earlier figures. Total b-to-b spending in the first half was $10.5 billion, reflecting a decline of 18.9% from the same period last year, according to the revamped BIN figures. The BIN data showed that b-to-b digital revenue in the first half totaled $2.1 billion, a 3.0% decline from last year's first half. Magazine revenue in this year's first half totaled $3.8 billion, a 26.5% decline; trade show revenue totaled $4.6 billion, an 18.6% decline.
Trade shows accounted for the greatest share of revenue in the first half of this year (43.5%), followed by print (36.5%) and digital (20.0%). ABM relies on Inquiry Management Systems for its print data, the Center for Exhibition Industry Research for exhibition industry data and a combination of ABM members, Pricewaterhouse Coopers/Interactive Advertising Bureau, eMarketer and Outsell for digital information.
While ABM appears to have adjusted the BIN reporting to its satisfaction, BPA's Brand Reach audit is only in the testing phase. The “alpha test” for the new system is Stamats Business Media's Meetings West brand. The initial Brand Reach report for this brand includes metrics for a magazine, two e-mail newsletters and a webinar.
“This new audit tool will help our advertising customers quickly and thoroughly determine the depth and scope of the media buy within a given brand needed to achieve their marcom objectives,” Tim Fixmer, president of Stamats Business Media, said in a statement.
Hansen said in an interview he expects BPA to enter beta testing with the Brand Reach audit in the coming months and will then have to get the approval of his organization's board before it can be offered to all BPA members. Hansen is hopeful that the new audit format will be available in 2010.
The new format is a response to marketers' demands for integrated opportunities that extend well beyond print, Hansen said. “[Media companies] are saying to us that, in the sales call, the BPA audit wasn't even being taken out of the salesman's bag because it was only talking about print,” he said.
Media buyers say the new format has potential.
Sheree Johnson, senior VP at ad agency Nicholson Kovac, said: “I think it's a step in the right direction. It will be interesting to see some of the numbers you get. Some might be low enough that they'll scare publishers off a bit. What if you have 50 people in a webinar? Is that good or bad? We might begin to know if there are some benchmarks [provided by this process]. If it's 50 of the right people, that's good.”
Vickie Szombathy, VP-media director at Spark Communications, said, “My first reaction is that it's appealing from a competitive perspective.” With a Brand Reach audit for several media competitors, b-to-b marketers can better compare the reach of e-newsletters, for instance, she said.
At the same time, Szombathy noted that because of the Web's inherent interactivity—especially when compared with a print publication—an audit isn't as necessary: Marketers can tell quickly whether an online program is working by the response. “You can usually collapse all of that information yourself,” she said.
Warren Bimblick, who is a BPA board member and senior VP at Penton Media, said he is a fan of the Brand Reach audit and noted that Penton is preparing to test the format with one of its titles. He pointed out that having an audit of e-newsletters, webinars and other media can help determine where to place marketing messages, but also how to adjust the creative based on the audience.
“You may find that senior managers using a particular [media] brand are paying attention to the print product, whereas purchasing managers attend the webinars,” he said. “So you might use your creative in a campaign in very targeted ways.” M