ABM’s Hughes sees good times ahead for b-to-b publishers

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Dana Point, Calif.--During his opening remarks at the American Business Media's annual Spring Meeting on Monday, Gordon Hughes, the organization's president-CEO, said he believes the advertising-based recession is ending.

"I truly believe the worst is over," Hughes said. He added that b-to-b media companies, because they have developed new revenue streams, including the Internet and data mining, are well positioned for a recovery. "I believe that through hard work and spartanizing, we will come roaring out of the recession with high margins and more profitable than we've ever been," he said.

Data discussed by presenters at the meeting, however, painted a darker picture of the prospects for recovery. In the first two months of this year, ad spending declined 29.2%, after declining 19.1% in 2001 compared with 2000.

Additionally, WPP Group, which owns Ogilvy & Mather and other ad agencies, said it didn't anticipate the ad market to show any significant strengthening until 2004.

In his opening remarks, Hughes also announced that ABM plans to take a leadership role in encouraging Congress to recognize the difference between business privacy and consumer privacy.

"Privacy is a big issue," Hughes said, pointing out that data mining and other uses of circulation databases are potentially large revenue streams that b-to-b media companies would like to protect. He said medical records and other sensitive personal information must be allowed to remain private, but that business data did not share the same imperative for privacy.

Robert L. Krakoff, chairman-CEO of Advanstar Inc. and incoming chairman of the ABM, echoed Hughes, saying, "Capitol Hill must understand the difference between business privacy and public privacy."

--Sean Callahan

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