In the six months since he announced a strategic shift in focus for UBM Tech, CEO Paul Miller has suffered resentment in the wake of layoffs of about 10% of the company's workforce, heard parent company UBM's CEO David Levin—his boss—announce he will step down next summer and seen the divestiture of the former UBM Tech Channel Group in a management-led buyout.
In spite of all that, Miller continues to implement broad changes that he, Levin and other UBM leaders see as the best direction for the company. The strategy centers on moving away from the one-way information delivery model of traditional media to focus on building communities through live events and websites.
“This change is being pressed upon UBM Tech by the advertisers,” said Reed Phillips, managing partner of media investment bank DeSilva+Phillips. “Marketers have other ways of achieving their goals [than online and print advertising], and that's going to require the tech media companies to change their strategies. The marketers are also looking to do more with less, and the tech media companies must respond.”
UBM Tech exited print publishing in June and has started to relaunch its online media brands on a new platform that's built around content curated by editorial experts and tools that facilitate user-generated content and peer-to-peer dialogue. EE Times and Light Reading migrated to the new platform in July and August, respectively, and the InformationWeek website is scheduled to relaunch on it in mid-November.
UBM Tech is focusing on better integrating these online communities with its events, which have become a major source of revenue and profits for the company.
Although UBM Tech's events, including Cloud Connect, Interop and the Black Hat security conference series, have long served the same markets as the media sites, “at an organizational level, they were culturally misaligned” with little idea sharing or coordination, Miller said.
The ability to truly integrate the efforts of the events and online community teams will come from a single-audience-view database that the company is creating as part of a three-year data warehouse project.
By the first quarter of 2014, marketing personnel across the event and community brands—as well as marketing services—will have dashboards to give them access to a database that consolidates audiences.
In addition, UBM Tech will relaunch its marketing services business in the fourth quarter of this year, Miller said. The revamped unit will be different in two major ways. One is a new structure designed to enable custom event creation and management at a level parallel to content marketing services. The other is what Miller calls a more strategic approach to marketing services delivery.
Miller said that marketing services within media companies evolved from the model of custom publishing, with programs developed exclusively for one client. “More and more, customized solutions for fewer and fewer people is not scalable,” he said. “We've taken decisions to not do certain things that we can't afford to do profitably, and we have a better understanding now of what's good revenue and what's bad revenue than we did in the past.”