1. Have personnel cuts damaged the product?
Some media buyers believe that several years of personnel cuts are beginning to show in diminished editorial coverage and unresponsive sales service. "I've noticed some decline," said Donna Mercer, VP-media director at Howard, Merrell & Partners.
2. Will rising costs hurt profits?
Rising production costs are beginning to hit the industry. After years of stability, paper companies recently hiked prices. Printers are hoping to raise prices as well. And don't forget: A postal rate hike is on the horizon.
3. How badly will competition hurt the industry?
Competition is an increasing threat. Led by Google, search engine sites are sucking in marketing dollars. It seems clear that some of this money is coming out of the pockets of more traditional b-to-b media companies.
4. Can dwindling consumer confidence affect b-to-b media?
While b-to-b struggled, the consumer sector of the economy held strong over the past several years. But record high petroleum prices, mild inflation and declining consumer confidence could affect markets such as automotive, building and fashion.
5. Will the stock market's overall decline have an impact?
As of late April, the Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 5.4% for the year. But because corporate profits were relatively stable for the first quarter, many industry observers believe b-to-b media will continue apace for the remainder of the year.
"I'm pretty comfortable that the economy will be fine for at least the next year," said Reed Phillips, managing partner of media investment bank DeSilva & Phillips. -Sean Callahan