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Is green sustainable? B-to-b media and the environmental movement

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B-to-b media are joining the latest environmental movement with new products and high hopes Environmentalism has risen up and then faded as a critical business issue a number of times over the past two decades. The current green movement, though, is gaining mass appeal as climate change becomes a global issue and unprecedented oil prices bring the issue home, literally. As various business sectors go green, the b-to-b media that serve them are launching green brands. These include McGraw-Hill Construction's GreenSource, Hanley Wood's EcoHome and Watt's EcoAgri.biz. Hanley Wood began building a green portfolio last year when it acquired Eco-Structure, a leading green magazine and Web site in commercial construction. In January, the company launched a quarterly magazine and Web site for residential construction. Originally called Green Products & Technology, the publication and site were renamed and relaunched in May under the EcoHome brand. Rick Strachan, group publisher for Hanley Wood's Remodeling and Distribution Groups, oversees EcoHome. The environmental movement is here to stay, he said, spurred on recently by the escalating cost of energy. “We started to see interest increasing as early as 2005, and we started doing green-focused departments and sections within brands such as Builder and Remodeler,” Strachan said. “We started surveying contractors, and, in the fall of 2006, 84% of them told us their customers were interested in green solutions. Then, we made green the theme of one of our leadership conferences and we had record attendance.” Strachan said EcoHome has brought in some new advertisers, but he estimated that two-thirds of the advertisers were already Hanley Wood customers. He doesn't think EcoHome is cannibalizing other Hanley Wood titles, though, because “many of our traditional advertisers are focusing a certain portion of their budgets on green.” If Hanley Wood didn't have green-focused products, the advertising would go elsewhere, Strachan said. McGraw-Hill Construction, which specializes in the commercial side of the industry, launched GreenSource, a quarterly publication, and a companion Web site, greensourcemag.com, last year. “Green is becoming mainstream and eventually will be totally embedded in the construction industry,” said Norbert Young Jr., president of McGraw-Hill Construction. As they move toward more sustainable products, however, architects, contractors and owners are hungry for data that will help them gauge the return on their investment. One signature of GreenSource's editorial coverage is its very detailed case studies that include such key parameters as square footage, cost, annual energy use and predicted carbon footprint. “We've staked our claim based on research,” Young said. “Our readers don't want marketing fluff. They want real facts about performance.” While the construction field has been embracing the green movement for some time, the sustainability theme is spreading to other b-to-b markets. Wat, for one, launched EcoAgr.Biz for animal agribusiness this January. The Eco Agri.Biz brand is built around a Web site with a monthly digital edition rather than a print publication. Steve Akins, VP-publisher of EcoAgri.Biz, Feed Management and Petfood Industry, said that although Watt produces multiple print publications, “we wanted to practice what we preach with EcoAgri.Biz, so the digital edition made a lot of sense.” Animal agribusiness for Watt includes poultry, pig and swine, and the feeding of farm animals. Although sustainability is not yet common practice in these sectors, the audience is eager to learn more about the topic in light of the escalating cost of energy and incentives that may be available from the government, Akins said. “Education is a major component of EcoAgri.Biz,” he said. One way that education is served is through bimonthly webcasts, which are produced whether or not they are sponsored. “Some very large organizations have become advertisers and sponsors,” Akins said, adding that the new launch is already making money. “This is something we are committed to for the long term,” he continued. “We think it has the potential to be much bigger.” M
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