Poised for growth, b-to-b media must remain vigilant

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This is a time of opportunity for all of us in the b-to-b media sector. We're mining business information in new ways; we're staking claim to new technologies and content channels; and we're defining a new gold standard for our industry. We're finding ways to take advantage of new media to drive our businesses, to use data to better target audiences and to optimize a multiplatform approach to better meet customers' needs. With new tools, there's better information. And better information gives us the ability to make better decisions. We're seeing positive signs of growth in our industry, in part because we are using this better information to serve our customers' needs. We have a better sense today than ever before of who our customers are and what they want. The numbers bear this out. Total b-to-b media revenue, including face to face, print, digital and data, grew from $24.7 billion in 2010 to $26.5 billion last year, a 7.3% gain. The learning curve with digital transformation was difficult; but through it all, we've found opportunities to reach our markets in new ways. The fact that customers are demanding more choice has forced us to get better at understanding how to meet their demands. That's one key to success in our business today: knowing there is no typical customer any longer. It's critical to understand that customers have different media consumption habits. And we need the ability to reach them with the content they want, how they want it, when they want it. Fundamentally, however, while consumers' media consumption habits have changed, the basic need for high-quality content is constant. Our customers still look at our brands as trustworthy sources of information—ones they will depend on as long as we continue to invest in delivering quality content, whether in print, online or face to face. That's a trust we need to preserve, so this will continue to be our highest priority. But it's not our biggest challenge. We need to make sure that we're on track to meet our customers' wants and needs, and that we invest in the right areas of our business for growth. Among our biggest challenges is, of course, the mounting postal debt, which continues to threaten increases to already burdensome mailing rates. The current economy, while appearing to be gaining strength, is still uncertain. Government regulation issues are at the forefront, ones that could inhibit your lead-generation efforts, trade show operations and list sales. Additionally, proposed legislation could censor sites that incorporate user-generated content, which could include comments, social media and blogs. Plus, there are threats that might erode First Amendment protections, and these potential changes could impact rights of business information and media companies to sell and use valuable databases. These are challenges American Business Media is confronting for the collective benefit of its membership. With the strength of our association behind us, I continue to be optimistic about our future. At ABM, we have a solid strategy in place, a committed board and an engaged membership that is moving b-to-b media to a new and better future. As ABM chairman, I plan to focus on the following things in the next year:
  • To see that we continue to make healthy gains in retention and recruitment.
  • To work to combine ABM's resources with those of other associations to provide greater value in more areas to members.
  • To use our committees and councils to their fullest to help drive more programs and services to our membership.
  • To continue to improve our representation in Washington, D.C.
  • We'll continue to move forward by taking advantage of both traditional and transformational media opportunities. I'm not original in saying that there's no such thing as a mature industry—only tired imaginations.
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