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Panel: Business media brands need to focus on community, not medium

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New York—The overriding challenge for mainstream business media brands is to sharpen their focus on the communities they serve and, when it comes to executing new ideas, not pit one medium against another, according to a panel of publishing executives that kicked off paidContent.org’s Future of Business Media conference Tuesday.

"Try not to get too caught up in online versus print but how you can use media together to serve community," said John Koten, CEO of Mansueto Ventures, who oversees editorial and sales of Inc. and Fast Company. "Social networking certainly plays a big role in that and is a way for audiences to connect in a much better way."

Mansueto Digital, the online unit of Mansueto Ventures, last week rolled out IncBizNet, an online business networking and user-generated database designed for private companies. "It's 'Facebook' for entrepreneurs but, instead of individuals, puts the company first,” Koten said. “If it works the way we think it can, companies from the SMB can work together without command and control."

Keith Fox, president of BusinessWeek, added that events are an increasingly vital component in the media mix, but said business publishers need to be careful that they do not go to the expense of events just for the sake of doing so.

"We do events when we're sure we have something to say," Fox said. "The event has to be related to editorial, and you need a business model to justify it."

Susan Clark, global marketing director of The Economist and publisher of the magazine's Europe, Middle East and Africa editions, said conferences and events "are important as brand builders" and allow ad sales executives to augment magazine sales.

Koten added: "You have two sets of customers— readers and advertisers—and sometimes their interests conflict. Events can bring them together in a way that you can't with print or online. They're crucial for advertisers to reach people in a real way and spend time with people who may be interested in their products and services."

—Matthew Schwartz

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