In b-to-b marketing, branding may be out of style, but a glance down the list of this year's Media Power 50 shows that powerful media brands-The Wall Street Journal s and InformationWeeks of the world-are still in vogue.
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Editorial excellence, an influential business audience, and integrated ad programs make The Wall Street Journal the top pick in BtoB's Media Power 50 for the fifth year in a row.
"It's a large-circulation publication, and it has a very refined audience because of its stature in business publishing," said Jack Hanrahan, director of U.S. print operations at OMD, a strategic media agency that is part of the Omnicom network. OMD handles media buying for clients including FedEx and General Electric Co., both of which have advertised in the Journal over the past year.
"The Journal is looked to as the first source of daily news for business people," Hanrahan added.
The Journal has a paid circulation of 2.1 million readers in the U.S. Nearly 60% of its readers are in top management jobs, and readers spend an average of 54 minutes a day with the paper, according to the Journal 's 2003 subscriber study.
Hanrahan said the Journal is also attractive as a media vehicle for b-to-b marketers because it is fairly priced and provides in-depth coverage on specific industries.
This year, the Journal has made a concentrated effort to focus on specific industry segments through its regular coverage and in special sections.
In January, it relaunched its "Journal Report," which runs every Monday. The report has more focused coverage of industry segments including business software, office technology, telecommunications and consumer technology. "For b-to-b marketers, it gives them a very targeted vehicle to reach their audience," said Scott Schulmann, senior VP-global sales and marketing at the Journal .
The Journal also revamped its "Money & Investing" section in January, adding more news coverage and analysis for investors.
New content includes "Tracking the Numbers," a daily news feature that provides insight into the market; "Street Sleuth," a feature that investigates unusual trading activity; and "Hit or Miss," a column that features a mutual fund or money manager explaining his or her best-performing and worst-performing stock picks of the past six or 12 months.
Last year, the Journal established a 24-hour global news desk by combining its news operations in New York, Brussels and Hong Kong. Journal news editors are now responsible for serving all Journal editions in the U.S., Asia, Europe and online. The Journal recently announced plans to continue its global expansion with an English-language edition for India.
"We truly have a global Journal franchise," Schulman said, noting that if advertisers want to buy globally they can do so with one purchase order.
The Journal rolled out new advertising programs in 2003 to provide better integration with the online edition. In November, it introduced Total Journal, an ad program that rewards advertisers that maintain their print advertising while increasing their online advertising by certain levels with a bonus that can be applied to print or online. The Journal now reports print and online circulation together in its Audit Bureau of Circulations reports.
New Journal advertisers last year included Apple Computer, Citrix Systems, Seagate, Pitney Bowes and Konica.
Color advertising, which was introduced in 2002, increased by 28% last year, although total ad lineage was down 1.3% in 2003.
This year, advertising is increasing. In the first quarter, ad linage in the Journal was up 6.3% over the first quarter of 2003, and in March ad linage was up 25.2% over March 2003.
The uptick was a welcome respite for the newspaper, which, despite its impeccable brand, had seen a decline in print ad revenues approaching 50% between 2000 and 2003, due in large part to drops in its sweet spots of financial and tech advertising.
First, Google was a noun: a Web site employing an ingenious algorithm to simplify and speed searching the Internet. Quickly, Google became a verb: "To google" is to search the Web.
Now, it probably won't be long until marketing directors-as keyword advertising drives valuable traffic to their company Web sites-begin using the word as an exclamation of gratitude: "Google! Google! Google!"
Well, maybe not.
But starting at just five cents per click, Google AdWords provide b-to-b marketers with a means to drive users to business Web sites just as they are actively looking for information about products or services. It's virtual point-of-purchase advertising.
"They allow us to be very targeted," said Caroline Riby, media director at Roberts Communications, Rochester, N.Y. "Their AdWords search allows the Internet to be affordable on a business-to-business level, because often these Internet sites are so expensive you can't even bring it up to a client."
"No doubt about it, it's a great product," agreed Mike Paradiso, global media director for Computer Associates.
In about six years, Google's founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have built a company with estimated annual revenue of $900 million and one that stands on the cusp of an initial public offering of a size to rival the dot-com glory days.
One reason for the excitement is that Google works for companies of all sizes. Type in "pumps valves fittings," the plumbing of the industrial plant, and a company you've likely never heard of appears in the sponsored links: United States Plastics Corp., which offers two-way ball valves among other products. Key in "gasket," and a similar result happens: a small gasket manufacturer called S.A.S. Industries appears in the sponsored links.
But type in "routers," and one of the largest companies in the world appears in the sponsored links: Dell Computer Corp. "Dell has everything you need to network your systems for less," reads the blurb.
"Our market ranges from large [Forbes] Global 2,000 marketers with big names, including big b-to-b companies, to very small companies," said David Hirsch, director of Google's b-to-b vertical markets group. "There's a huge opportunity for us in the middle market."
Overall, Google has about 150,000 advertisers overall, up from about 100,000 last year, Hirsch said. He added the b-to-b portion of the market is surging. But even with its booming growth and its monster IPO looming, Google faces severe challenges from rivals such as Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo!, both of which see huge potential in search. One media strategist, who declined to be identified, said Google is a powerful brand now but wouldn't predict that it would hold the same perch a decade from now.
Ed Erhardt, president of ESPN/ABC's sports customer sales, sometimes feels like he has an unfair advantage when he's selling ESPN's "SportsCenter."
"I'll be talking to a VP-marketing, and he'll say, 'My son has to have it ['SportsCenter'],' " Erhardt said. "At that point I don't even have to sell it. These guys see their sons sitting in front of 'SportsCenter' eating cereal in the morning. That demographic may not be our target, but it reminds these guys how passionate people are about sports."
For men, "SportsCenter" is a touchstone, and it has seeped into popular culture. Former "SportsCenter" anchor Chris Berman's staccato "back-back-back-back-back" home run call has entered the everyday lexicon, as has Stuart Scott's "Boo-yah!" "SportsCenter" has directly inspired the creation of at least two other programs, including "Dream Job," a reality show in which the prize was an anchor slot on "SportsCenter," and "Sports Night," a short-lived sitcom.
Beyond citing its dedicated viewership, "SportsCenter" has sold itself to b-to-b advertisers as a news program. Business executives watch "SportsCenter" for information, the same reason they tune into CNN, Fox News or CNBC, Erhardt said.
"SportsCenter's" other selling point is a rather obvious one: It attracts the elusive male viewer. "The males demographic is hard to find," said Marci Grebstein, VP-media and consumer marketing at Staples. "['SportsCenter'] is a good vehicle to reach this audience."
More than 78% of viewers for "SportsCenter's" 11 p.m. EST telecast are male, compared with 45.3% of total day TV viewership, according to data supplied by ESPN. "SportsCenter's" audience is 43.4% men 25 to 54 compared with 23.5% for total day TV viewership.
The program's audience is also relatively affluent (36.6% of viewers have household income above $75,000) and educated (31.5% have four or more years of college).
These demographics appeal to a large cross-section of b-to-b advertisers. Xerox Corp., United Parcel Service of America, Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp. and Apple Computer each spent more money on "SportsCenter" advertising than on any other cable program. For FedEx Corp., "SportsCenter" was No. 2 on its cable spending list, and for IBM Corp. the program was No. 3.
About 80% of advertising on "SportsCenter" is consumer-oriented with beer and automobiles leading the way. But Erhardt sees an opportunity to continue growing b-to-b marketers' presence on the program. "It's still growing," he said.
Ask John Kelly, senior VP-advertising sales at CNBC, how many people watch "Squawk Box," the cable network's signature program, on a daily basis and you'll be surprised by the answer.
"I don't exactly know how many people watch the show," Kelly said. "Nielsen and other TV ratings services only measure home audiences. But most of our viewers catch the show outside their homes," he said. " 'Squawk Box' dominates out-of-home, in-office viewing."
According to a Kantar Media Research study last month, CNBC programs garnered a 68% share of out-of-home viewing against seven competitive networks.
"We want CNBC's and 'Squawk Box's' daytime reach into offices and their communication with Wall Street," said Mike Paradiso, global media director for Computer Associates International.
What's more important to Kelly and "Squawk Box's" clients is the quality of the audience, not the quantity. "About half our viewers are CEOs, CFOs, presidents and business owners," Kelly said. " 'Squawk Box' delivers this C-suite audience on a more consistent basis than any other program. Our research shows that our audience watches 'Squawk Box' on average four and a half times a week out of a possible five shows." Moreover, 75% of CEOs watch CNBC in a given week, according to the Kantar study.
The program, which was launched in 1989 along with its network, airs daily from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the East Coast. Anchored by Mark Haines and Maria Bartiromo from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, "Squawk Box" kicks off the business day with fast-paced banter, interviews and breaking financial news.
Kelly said CNBC, and particularly "Squawk Box," is the TV equivalent of The Wall Street Journal . "However, we're able to give you the news as it's happening, not the day after," he said. "And unlike a lot of other news programs, we're able to provide on-the-spot, in-depth analysis on how the news will affect the markets and specific companies."
Part of "Squawk Box's" appeal comes from the fact that its audience members are also often the guests. "The show routinely brings on top executives for commentary and interviews, and they're also our main viewers," Kelly said. "It's a built-in, very personal affinity that most TV programs or other media can't duplicate."
Major b-to-b advertisers apparently like that affinity with the C-level set. According to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, "Squawk Box" ranked among the top five cable programs for ad expenditures from Microsoft Corp., General Electric Co., Accenture and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
Said Tyler Schaeffer, senior VP-director of media brand planning for Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide, New York: "While CNBC has smaller ratings than others, they're more focused on senior executives, and programs like 'Squawk Box' have a very loyal following."
Despite the slumping economy, 2003 proved to be a banner year for McGraw-Hill's BusinessWeek. The magazine's average paid circulation of 991,757 at year's end was the highest in its 75-year history.
"Consumer demand for BusinessWeek has never been stronger," said Geoff Dodge, VP-associate publisher and U.S. sales director. "We've had true organic growth, primarily through improved renewal rates, and we've captured market share within our competitive set."
One thing the magazine hasn't done is sit still. It engineered a well-received redesign and also increased its advertising rates 3.8%.
"We don't see any of our competitors raising their rates," Dodge said. "Obviously advertiser demand has been very high as well." Dodge said both demands stem from BusinessWeek's commitment to editorial excellence. Indeed, the magazine perennially receives many journalistic honors and this year is up for National Magazine Awards for general excellence and public interest.
"We bring a great deal of intelligence-in all senses of the word-to business news," Dodge said. "And our intelligent, quality journalism attracts intelligent consumers and quality advertisers."
Specifically, he said, with the non-stop barrage of TV and Internet news, more executives are looking for sources that will sort it all out for them and provide detailed, in-depth analysis. "One of the best things going for us is right in our name," Dodge said. "We're BusinessWeek, and though it sounds simple and obvious, it means we're more timely and relevant than biweekly or monthly publications, while more analytical than daily TV or newspapers."
Chris Lenge, VP-associate media director at Doremus, a New York-based advertising agency, said: "BusinessWeek reaches a sophisticated audience in a relatively uncluttered environment. The editorial is of the highest quality, with articles that go deeper than most other business publications and in a timely fashion."
The BusinessWeek brand doesn't start and end in print. "Our online presence has grown tremendously in the past 18 months," said Peggy White, general manager, BusinessWeek Online. "We may not be as large as some, but our audience is comprised of a sweet spot of senior business decision-makers."
Online advertising opportunities have evolved from traditional banner placements to channel sponsorships, whereby advertisers can select and be sole owners of channels such as technology, financial news and so on, White said. Integrated, cross-media packages including the Web site and magazine-as well as the BusinessWeek-branded syndicated TV show-have added value for advertisers. Ninety percent of BusinessWeek Online's advertisers also advertise in the magazine, White said.
Such packages allow BusinessWeek to customize programs-ranging from broad-reach brand campaigns to micro-targeted calls to action-to meet the diverse needs of its advertisers.
"We're constantly trying to improve our clients' experiences by working to understand what each of them is trying to accomplish," Dodge said. "It's a critical practice, especially in the b-to-b world."
The New York Times, which has been consistently recognized for its high editorial standards, upheld its commitment to journalism through the weak economy by expanding staff and coverage when most other publications were cutting resources.
"During the recent downturn, we continued to invest in our journalistic expertise," said Jyll Holzman, senior-VP advertising at the Times. The newspaper boosted its editorial staff in 2003 but declined to release numbers.
One of the key editorial hires was Lawrence Ingrassia, who was named business and financial editor of the Times in January, following a 25-year career at The Wall Street Journal , most recently as assistant managing editor.
This commitment to journalism and editorial leadership helps make the Times a must-read publication for business executives.
Scott Berg, worldwide media director at Hewlett-Packard Co., said the audience the Times delivers makes it a significant media partner for HP, which is a frequent advertiser in the newspaper.
"The New York Times helps give HP access to key enterprise business decision-makers and opinion leaders and, thus, be more effective in communicating that HP is an important company to consider when they are evaluating enterprise technology solutions," Berg said.
According to the 2003 Mendelsohn Affluent Head of Household Survey, 752,000 weekday Times readers and 875,000 Sunday Times readers have top management job titles or chief officer responsibilities.
"First and foremost, our competitive edge comes from our business and technology editorial excellence," Holzman said. On April 18, the Times launched "SundayBusiness," a redesigned business section with new graphics, additional color pages, new columnists and expanded coverage of business trends, corporate newsmakers and personal finance.
It is also expanding its reach globally. In March, it launched a partnership with five European newspapers-Le Monde in France, El Pais in Spain, La Republica in Italy, Suddedeutsche Zeitung in Germany and The Daily Telegraph in the U.K.-under which a section of the Times appears weekly in each paper.
A new ad program called EuroReach gives advertisers an opportunity to place an ad in each of the five papers, as well as the European edition of the New York Times Co.-owned International Herald Tribune, with one order.
In 2003, ad revenue for the national edition of the Times was $1.1 billion, up 1.7% over 2002.
The Wall Street Journal Online, at WSJ.com, is considered a media powerhouse for b-to-b advertisers that want to reach C-level executives with decision-making authority.
The site reaches an audience of 695,000 paid subscribers, up 3% over its paid subscriber base a year ago. The public site, which is free, attracts 5.4 million unique users a month.
"Advertisers want to associate with the must-read status of the Journal ," said Randy Kilgore, VP-advertising at the Wall Street Journal Online, which is owned by Dow Jones & Co.
"We have senior-level executives coming in on a consistent basis," he said, pointing to the Journal's 2003 subscriber study showing that 26% of visitors to WSJ.com hold a C-level title and 54% are in top management.
The average household income of WSJ.com readers is $215,600, and the average household net worth is $1.6 million.
Not only are senior executives coming to the site, they're staying. The average time spent reading the Journal Online is 34 minutes, according to the subscriber study.
Gerry Corbett, VP-branding and corporate communications at Hitachi America, said this type of audience makes the Journal Online an attractive marketing vehicle.
"Because of our complexity as a large IT infrastructure provider, we really need a venue that allows us to target a C-level audience," Corbett said. "WSJ.com attracts that audience, and it is a critical read for C-level types."
Hitachi's objective on WSJ.com is primarily branding, Corbett said, which it accomplishes through banner ads using rich media.
The Journal Online offers several levels of targeted advertising, including registration, demographic targeting and contextual targeting, Kilgore said.
One of the newer ad programs available is interest-based targeting (IBT), which the Journal introduced last June through a partnership with Revenue Science.
IBT allows marketers to target specific ads to subscribers based on their site-usage characteristics. For example, advertisers can reach subscribers who have shown an interest in a particular area of news coverage, such as business and personal technology, travel, automotive, investments, health and leisure.
The program provides a post-buy analysis, so advertisers can evaluate the effectiveness of a campaign by different audience segments and their online behaviors.
IBT accounts for about 9% of overall revenue on WSJ.com on a monthly basis. Overall, display advertising on WSJ.com was up 33% in 2003 over 2002.
For CIO, it's been a season of editorial awards. Not only did the International Data Group publication win its second consecutive Grand Neal, the biggest prize in American Business Media's Jesse H. Neal Awards for Business Journalism, it is also a National Magazine Awards finalist for general excellence.
Abbie Lundberg, CIO's editor in chief, explained the magazine's philosophy as delivering useful information to senior technology executives and with strong narratives whenever possible. "Our readers are really busy people," she said. "They get a lot of other magazines. They don't have time to read it just because the magazine is called CIO. We really have to grab them."
The commitment to editorial strength comes from the top. "In tough economic times, we haven't cut back," said Walter Manninen, president-CEO of CXO Media, the unit of International Data Group that publishes CIO. "We continue to invest in editorial."
The content attracts a strong audience. In reaching the influencers of IT purchases, CIO is unmatched, according to the Intelliquest CIMS v10.0 study. The publication topped the list in terms of composition and coverage. It was also tops in composition and coverage in reaching tech influencers at companies with more than 1,000 employees.
Where there's a strong audience, advertisers follow. CIO, which appears 23 times a year, carries ads from tech leaders such as IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp.CIO's ad pages increased by 4.4% to 1,501.15 in 2003 compared with 1,437.83 in 2002, according to IMS: The Auditor.
"CIO continues to be well written," said Mike Paradiso, global media director at Computer Associates International. "Certainly it has a smaller circulation than other [IT] publications, but it's still as important a magazine as there is out there."
CIO's circulation of 140,000, which is about one-third the size of some of its broader competitors, appears to be an advantage when the C-suite is largely perceived to have more influence on IT purchases than ever.
Like other visionary media start-ups such as CNN and USA Today, CNET Networks has spilled a lot of red ink on its ambitious path to large-scale acceptance. It posted an operating loss of $5.7 million in the first quarter, compared with an operating loss of $14.6 million in the same period last year.
But as CNET's revenue continues a steady growth, its operating losses are shrinking. For the whole of 2004, it expects to post operating income of at least $3.1 million. Its revenue should total at least $275 million, compared with $246.2 million in 2003, the company said.
While CNET appears poised to earn steady profits in the near future, it has already earned the respect of its competitors. "Online, IDG's biggest competitor is CNET, not a traditional trade publisher like Ziff [Davis Media] or CMP [Media]," said International Data Group CEO Pat Kenealy.
A key part of CNET's b-to-b properties, which include ZDNet and TechRepublic, is its site with the enviable URL of news.com, which covers technology news. The site has 50 reporters, according to Mike Kisseberth, VP-sales for CNET. It has earned a reputation for strong journalism and is a finalist in the category of "general excellence online" in the 2004 National Magazine Awards competition.
CNET's enterprise sites attract 6 million unique visitors a month, and 96% of the news.com audience is involved in technology-purchasing decisions.
The site attracts a range of b-to-b advertisers, including Dell Computer Corp. and AT&T Corp. Kisseberth said 92% of CNET's top 100 advertisers re-enlist from quarter to quarter.
A key attraction is CNET's consistent innovation in ad formats. It pioneered the messaging plus unit, or MPU. In April, it introduced the enterprise launch unit. This format is delivered as a 10-second intro spot when a visitor arrives at the site. It then dissolves to the following page using a standard rectangular ad unit.
Best of all, marketers pay only for unique users who are actually exposed to the unit.
Being the No. 1 publication in the home construction market certainly has had its perks over the past few years. While ad-driven publications in most other industries struggled, Hanley Wood's flagship magazine, Builder, annually posted increases in advertising pages, including a jump from 1,795 in 2002 to 1,988 last year, according to IMS: The Auditor.
One of the reasons Builder has been so successful is that it's so closely aligned with other Hanley Wood construction-focused publications, including Remodeler and Residential Architect. "For many advertisers, it's one-stop shopping in several industries," said Group Publisher Warren Nesbitt. "But what's even better is that Builder is backed by our other Hanley Wood divisions-Exhibitions, Marketing and E-Media-that enable us to put together packages like few other publishers can."
Things have gone so well for Builder that in January it spun off its quarterly supplement Big Builder into a full-scale magazine. "We recognized that larger corporate builders were beginning to control more and more of the building business, so we wanted to boost our efforts to serve this readership and our advertisers," Nesbitt said. The Builder Group has also launched an annual Big Builder conference and e-newsletter.
Builder takes a multimedia approach to help advertisers build awareness and generate leads. "We've set up regional meetings and conferences to put them face to face with builders; we've put them together at golf outings," Nesbitt said. Another boon to advertisers is Builder's innovative Web site, which sets performance guarantees for online advertisers.
In making the selections for the Media Power 50 list, BtoB editors employed both objective and subjective criteria. They also evaluated data such as ad revenue and audience and interviewed about two dozen top media buyers, advertisers and industry analysts for their opinions on the most powerful and targeted b-to-b advertising venues. A panel of editors and reporters chose the Media Power 50. Crain Communications Inc. titles and those of its direct competitors were excluded from consideration.