Custom takes center stage

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Custom media has long been on the periphery of business publishing. But with marketers strapped for budgets these days—and eager to reach their audiences in a more personal vein—custom media has started to move toward center stage. “We're increasing investment for turnkey solutions because of the limited resources among clients who are not able to create [custom products] by themselves,” said Josh Heitsenrether, senior VP-integrated marketing and client services at Ziff Davis Enterprise, which caters to technology companies. “You get higher execution and accountability by offering one package, which ties traditional products into custom media in a holistic, end-to-end way.” By bundling custom products into marketing packages rather than isolating them in a separate bucket, business publishers can avoid the possibility of cannibalizing traditional ad dollars at the expense of custom media. “There's been a decentralization of marketing dollars, and there's more flexibility in how things are purchased,” Heitsenrether said, adding that custom publishing now represents roughly half of ZDE's overall revenue. “There are additional purchasers, tangential to media buyers, who have different goals. Lead gen is now tying into traditional marketing, and the custom component helps bridge the message for the purchasing process.” A recently released survey conducted by Roper Public Affairs and Media for the Custom Publishing Council illustrated the growing appeal of custom media. The telephone survey, which questioned 1,000 American adults from Feb. 18 to March 3, found that custom publications have a positive effect on purchasing behavior: 68% of respondents said the companies that provide information about their products in custom publications help them make better purchase decisions and 63% said they have bought something they saw mentioned or advertised in a custom publication. More than two-thirds of respondents said that companies that provide information about their products in custom magazines help them make better purchasing decisions—an increase of six points since Roper last conducted this survey in 2005. “The signs are clear that this a growth area,” said Michael Winkleman, president of the CPC and of Leverage Media, a custom media company with clients such as Convergys and Patton Boggs. “Marketers are increasing spending on custom not necessarily by adding dollars but by carving budgets up in a different way.” Custom media can take many forms, such as a print magazine, Web site, microsite, white paper, e-newsletter, webcast or podcast. To be sure, custom media remains a relatively small part of business publishers' portfolios. In 2008, custom media accounted for 2.2% of the combined overall revenue of 20 b-to-b companies that took part in the “2009 American Business Media Financial Survey.” In the last three years, custom media has declined at a compounded annual growth rate of 1.1%, but its contribution (revenue less expenses) has grown at a CAGR of 3.7%, according to the report, which was prepared by media investment bank Jordan, Edmiston Group. Although stemming from a small base, custom media has tripled in the last three years at technology publisher IDG, said Matt Avery, senior VP of IDG Enterprise Custom Group. “The space has grown up demonstrably in the last few years,” he said. “Old-school publishers and journalists used to look at custom as a dreaded advertorial. But now there are so many assets available that brands are looking to custom to leverage their relationship with their reader base.” Junta42, an online marketplace for custom publishing and branded content, has 15,000 unique monthly users, up from 10,000 in December, said Joe Pulizzi, founder of Junta42 and a CPC board member. “There's a fight for this type of [custom] content both online and offline,” Pulizzi said. “If business publishers don't do it, somebody else will.”
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