For ABM centennial, the focus is on the future

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American Business Media’s yearlong centennial celebration, which will kick off with a media briefing Thursday at Scholastic International in New York, arrives just as b-to-b publishers prepare for what’s expected to be a year of healthy growth for both the organization and the industry.

All of ABM’s marquee events this year, including the 52nd Jesse H. Neal Awards in March and the Top Management Meeting in November, will be thematically tied to the anniversary.

For example, the annual Spring Meeting in May at the Princess Hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz., will include presentations and discussions that will give b-to-b media executives “an opportunity to reflect on where they’re going, which is more important than where they’ve been,” said Gordon Hughes II, president-CEO of ABM.

Following the recession and advertising meltdown in 2000 and 2001, ABM is on the upswing. Membership is growing at a rapid clip, with about 45 companies having joined the fold since the 2005 Spring Meeting, according to Hugh Roome, ABM chairman for 2005-2006 and president of Scholastic International.

ABM currently has 288 member companies, representing more than 3,500 print and electronic titles and more than 850 trade shows and events. All told, these properties reach an audience of 100 million professionals.

While b-to-b print revenue is expected to grow 4% to 5% and trade show revenue 6% to 7%, digital media are expected to have a banner year, with online revenue expected to grow 20% to 22%.

“If you were a b-to-b publisher in 2005, you had to figure out a way to bridge the digital divide,” Roome said. “In 2006, as the organization goes forward, there’s a deeper commitment among our members to understand the marketing opportunities in a digital world.”

Roome added: “There are millions and millions of Web sites. So we have to prove to our audiences that because of our history of editorial content, we have more value, not less.”

ABM has several committees dedicated to promoting best practices for those areas of b-to-b media that are on the fast track, such as custom publishing, measurement and vertical search. “We need to take a hard look at our future opportunities and reinforce the value of b-to-b information in a changing media landscape,” said Mike Marchesano, president-CEO of VNU Business Media & Nielsen Entertainment, who will be ABM chairman for 2006-2007.

Marchesano, who is also the chairman of the ABM centennial committee, said topics that will dominate b-to-b publishing discussions in the coming year include opportunities to market rich data, defining a b-to-b magazine in a digital age and the globalization of the industry. ABM is planning two trips this year, one to Brazil in March and the other later in the year to the Asia-Pacific region, to gauge b-to-b media opportunities overseas.

One of the programs slated for the ABM centennial is a partnership with Everybody Wins!, a nonprofit organization that reaches out to children in need to provide one-to-one reading. Hughes and a handful of other top b-to-b media executives will each “adopt” a middle-school student for a semester and teach him or her about magazines and publishing.

The centennial will culminate in December with a gala event at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. The event will feature a video presentation with several prominent business leaders talking about the influence that b-to-b media have had on U.S. business throughout the last century.

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