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Business publishers need to improve how they sell integrated programs

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Sarah Fay, CEO of media and marketing agency Carat, says the current challenge for publishers is to embrace all types of emerging media to better serve their clients. Fay, a 20-year marketing veteran who is also CEO of the U.S. operations of ad agency Isobar, works with such companies as Motorola, Philips and Wachovia Corp. She recently talked to Media Business about some of the ways business publishers can help their clients go to market more effectively.

MB: Considering the ongoing turmoil in media markets, how would you rate business publishers' ability to respond to changing demands from marketers and media buyers?

Fay: I actually put business publishers at the forefront of a lot of the change that's happened and is happening. Because b-to-b marketers need to make a bigger impact and to sort of create an optical illusion of bigger media budgets, they have been the ones that have demanded integration and to create a bigger presence with an audience in all formats, and a lot of b-to-b publishers have responded to that.

They have been innovative in all the ways to reach an audience, whether it's through print, Web sites or branded content, and have extended their buyers' touch points into newsletters and other CRM possibilities. Business publishers have been good at connecting the dots while creating opportunities for marketers to connect the dots between the mediums for their buyers.[But] publishers can still get better at creating messages in an integrated way.

MB: What are some of the things trade publications need to do to improve customer relations?

Fay: The more publishers can approach advertisers with holistic solutions that incorporate all of their properties to create an experience for the buyer across all touch points—from events to publications to Web properties and extending it to e-mail—that's where the ground to be won is. In terms of creating better campaigns, it's about leveraging content to drive readers and buyers into the different areas that they have to offer and to demonstrate loyalty and involvement. There are great examples of this happening, but the way a lot of publishers are structured in silos, print publishers [have difficulty] leveraging print to online and online to print.

MB: Which vertical markets are doing well by their clients, and what can other vertical markets learn from them?

Fay: The medical verticals. Medical providers are very much up on blogs and peer-review, and are noncompetitive; so all the trade publications are read, but there's a huge amount of activity online because the market revolves around community. Publishers have done a great job of building community and including the voice of the buyer into the mix. This is also true of all of the major technology publishers.

MB: Is there still too much of a vendor mentality among business publishers when it comes to serving clients and not enough of a collaborative mentality?

Fay: There is a very consultative approach in many of the sectors. The tech publishers come to mind because they understand the niche areas of technology and can help marketers wrap their brand around the appropriate content in different places. As the verticals get smaller and smaller it's not that that's harder to do, it just becomes harder to be profitable to spend the amount of time it takes to put those packages together and to get that level of investment from marketers operating in niche communities. And for publishers, it gets expensive to create all of these functionalities that readers may be looking for.

MB: How can business publishers respond more effectively to the dramatic shifts in b-to-b media spending?

Fay: There are two elements: 1) How do publishers create the inventory that's needed for the shift, and 2) how can they facilitate buys in a strategic way? But again, if the publisher is siloed, you create a dogfight between properties for the same dollars. So if I'm a publisher, I want to create those holistic stories as much as possible.

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