Dealing with rapid changes

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As the shift of advertising and audiences from print to the Internet accelerates, b-to-b media executives are seeking experts and peers who can help them navigate through the transition.

In response, American Business Media extended its annual digital media conference from one day to two. More than 200 registrants attended the event, Digital Velocity, held in New York in March. "The great attendance to this event speaks volumes of the need and want of our members to fulfill their digital goals," said Gordon T. Hughes II, ABM president-CEO.

Two themes threaded throughout the dozen sessions: how to use Web metrics and how to structure b-to-b media organizations in an Internet world.

While every activity on the Internet theoretically can be measured, using metrics in practice is not an exact science, speakers said.

Panelist Kendall Allen, managing director of interactive agency Incognito Digital, said, "There's so much data available that we steer clients away from it. It's our job to provide the meaning of the data." Similarly, she said, b-to-b publishers need to ask themselves, "How does this metric serve the marketer's objective?"

In another panel discussion, Paul Gerbino, publisher of ThomasNet Industrial News, commented on the lack of agreement among Web analytics services. "If you use three different services, you get three different numbers for the same site," he said.

For just that reason, Michael Daechler, VP-editorial for, said, "We use our own internal measurement as well as Nielsen. We track to make sure they're in line with one another, but we don't expect them to be the same."

Organizational structure is a topic of high interest as b-to-b media companies make the transition from print-centric organizations to fully integrated media companies. Chuck Richard, VP-lead analyst for Outsell Inc., presented findings from a qualitative study of b-to-b media organizational structures conducted last August. The study was based on interviews with a sample of top media executives who were promised anonymity.

Sixty-one percent of the respondents' companies use a hybrid/matrix structure in which certain resources and expertise are devoted to helping staffs for individual brands develop online skills in addition to their print and event experience. The second most common structure, representing only 17% of respondents, is fully integrated. Online groups performing a centralized role and "pure play" structures with an independent online unit parallel to brand units each represented 11% of the sample.

Amy Sklar, director of sales and marketing, interactive, for CMP Medica, has an evangelist role within her organization, although no sales staff report to her. "One thing that has worked well for us is the pairing of digital enthusiasts who may have limited sales experience with seasoned sales superstars whose careers have been print-based," she said.

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