ABM conference focuses on new digital challenges

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Scottsdale, Ariz.—Top b-to-b media executives attending American Business Media’s Spring Meeting Monday focused on the challenges of transitioning their brands for the digital age.

“We are truly at a crossroads,” said Michael Marchesano, the incoming chairman of ABM and president-CEO of VNU Business Media. He said that with customers increasingly in the driver’s seat, business publishers now have to craft “their own road maps” to continue to serve the needs of their clients. What’s more, younger consumers—and tomorrow’s b-to-b media customers—”feel entitled to get things for free because they can.”

So how do b-to-b publishers confront these economic and demographic changes?

“As an industry, we can resist these changes and let our editors play the role of ‘parent knows best’ by dictating content,” Marchesano said. “Or we can empower them to think differently and to be part of the process of creating communities and building networks.”

Harold “Terry” McGraw III, chairman and president-CEO of McGraw-Hill Cos., who presented the day’s keynote address, discussed how larger changes in society are affecting business publishers.

“We’re just at the beginning of the commercialization of the Internet,” he said. “There is an opportunity for ABM members to enable communities to access the information they need. There is still no substitute for market knowledge.”

Both Marchesano and McGraw echoed two major points contained in ABM’s just-approved two-year strategic plan: First, end users are “seizing control” and determining how and when they receive information; second, the editor is becoming a brand manager, distributing products and services across multiple platforms.

—Matthew Schwartz and Ellis Booker

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