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The state of b-to-b media

Mastering marketing services

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The outlook isn't completely bleak, however, as media companies also have significant revenue opportunities, industry observers and b-to-b media executives say. One recent push by publishers has been to offer marketing services as a response to marketers' creating content for their own websites. Outsell identified technology media companies, such as International Data Group, United Business Media and Ziff Davis Enterprise, and agricultural media companies, such as Farm Journal Media and Farm Progress Cos., as leaders in this arena. However, one b-to-b media executive, who declined to be identified, said much of the b-to-b media industry is lagging behind in marketing services. “It's a nice buzzword,” he said, “but I think the industry needs to accelerate its move into marketing services.” Some observers say the preoccupation with marketing services and digital projects may be causing b-to-b media companies to ignore one of their great, underappreciated strengths: the power of integrated marketing. In Outsell's “B2B Trade Publishing & Company Information: 2011 Market Forecast and Trends Report,” Chuck Richard, the research firm's VP-lead analyst, wrote, “The heavy focus on all things digital is blinding many publishers and advertisers to additional revenue from traditional media: combining print, events and digital beats pure-play digital, or just print or just events hands down. Outsell studies provide compelling data showing a 2x cross-media advertising effectiveness multiplier effect: two times more b-to-b and consumer advertisers rate cross-media methods as highly effective than single-media methods, which include using only digital media.” Most b-to-b media companies are strongly integrated entities, combining print, digital and events. As many of these companies have moved to create unified audience databases around these three media offerings, they have discovered that their audiences are much larger than the typical magazine audit would indicate. Targets who read magazines aren't necessarily the same people who visit a media brand's websites or attend its conferences. “You know a lot more than anybody else about your market,” Pollak said. An often overlooked aspect of the integrated media offering is print. B-to-b media companies still have the print market cornered, and this is an area in which ABM statistics show a revenue increase in the third quarter of last year. “It's steady,” Michael Friedenberg, CEO of IDG Enterprise, which publishes Computerworld and other titles, said of print. “It's quite profitable, too.” Friedenberg, of course, is not standing pat with IDG Enterprise's controlled-circulation magazines. The business has also moved into paid content. Friedenberg said IDG Enterprise's CIO Executive Council, a paid peer membership group, boosted its revenue by 22% in the fourth quarter. “That business was up double digits, year over year,” he said. Numerous other b-to-b media companies are moving into paid content in various formats. CFO Publishing, which publishes CFO, has built a small paid content business around Excel software training. The company did about 20 paid webcasts last year on Excel and recently launched a $49 subscription e-newsletter on the same topic. “You'd be amazed at how poorly it [Excel] is used,” said Alan Glass, CEO of CFO Publishing. Other b-to-b media companies have delved into mobile offerings. Farm Progress Cos., for instance, offers a free Growing Degree Days app for Android and iPhone. The app, sponsored by Monsanto Co., helps farmers determine the optimum planting times for their specific area and crops. Other companies are looking to expand their audiences overseas. IEEE Spectrum, for example, is licensing its engineering content for the development of a Chinese-language website. “We're very hopeful about that project,” Vick said. And even though many media executives are concerned about social media snatching users and ad dollars from traditional b-to-b media venues, many of these companies are building their own social media sites. Paul Miller, CEO of UBM Canon, recognizes the power of social media. “There's a threat in any kind of media where the eyeballs are going and, when you look at social media, that's where the eyeballs are going,” he said. With its DeusM program, which develops social media sites for UBM brands and marketers such as Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co., UBM has developed a community site around the Design News brand. Miller said the site went from about 200,000 page views a month to about 1 million in about four months time. “Great content is still what it's about,” Miller said. “It's that the great content is not always produced by you.”

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