A modest uptick occurring in b-to-b ad spending, but the sector is still reeling from two years of recession. Facing budget constraints and increased scrutiny from the accounting department, b-to-b marketers are acting on their caution in three key ways:
- They’re relying on established brands for media buys.
- They’re using integrated marketing to stretch their budgets.
- They’re analyzing their expenditures by measuring return on investment.
Top 10 Profiles
1 The Wall Street Journal
2 The New York Times
4. "Lou Dobbs Moneyline"
6. Aviation Week & Space Technology
9. Information Week
10. "The O'Reilly Factor," Fox News Channel
All of these trends can be seen in the Top 10 of the Media Power 50, BtoB’s annual list of the best venues for b-to-b marketing messages. This year, the Top 10 teems with established brands: The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Fortune and "Lou Dobbs Moneyline," to name a few. Even Google has established itself as an undisputed leading brand in only a few years.
"It’s become a household name," said Kevin Arsham, strategy supervisor at OMD, global media partner of BBDO, New York.
From Google to The New York Times, the default position for b-to-b marketers is to run their messages aligned with strong brands. "The traditional brand philosophy is that as you’re building your own brand, you want to develop it with and associate it with other strong brands," said Nancy Bhagat, senior VP-corporate marketing at Computer Associates International Inc.
This approach also extends to the trade press, where it has become axiomatic to say that only one or two publications are expected to thrive in any one vertical market. A No. 3 or No. 4 publication, industry observers say, doesn’t have
the brand power to attract ads and survive.
Since the 1991 b-to-b advertising recession, trade publications have been adept at extending their print brands into trade shows, conferences and the Internet. B-to-b publishers began offering integrated marketing opportunities under a single brand in an effort to get a larger share of advertisers’ budgets. It was a simple plan, and it has helped insulate, to some degree, b-to-b media from dips in ad spending.
The larger media brands, following the trade publications’ lead, have realized the advantages of extending their own brands.
"Many of these strong brands have done an excellent job of building and developing brand extensions and leveraging that brand, offering more opportunities to advertisers looking for 360-degree marketing," Bhagat said.
Powerful print names now offer brand extensions that allow for integrated marketing. BusinessWeek, Fortune and Forbes all have executive conferences and sophisticated Web sites.
These big brands, even with declining print revenues, are attempting to get a bigger share of the marketing pie. Even Dow Jones & Co., renowned for eschewing negotiation, has begun to aggressively offer integrated marketing deals to b-to-b marketers. In addition to The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones has in its stable such powerful brands as the Wall Street Journal Online, the Wall Street Journal Radio Network, Barron’s and Smart Money.
Chris Phillip, senior VP-media director at Doremus, New York, helped craft the integrated media plan for client United Technologies Corp. He was impressed with the cross-media platform plan that Dow Jones helped create. "It may be old for everyone else, but no one has really done a great job at doing it," Phillip said.
No free ride for brands
While established brands may hold an advantage during recessions, no brand is getting a free ride in this new era, which demands ever more precise measurement of marketing return on investment.
One brand in particular has made a name for itself by promising results: TechTarget Inc., which has developed niche Web sites (such as searchstorage.com) that promise advertisers ROI. "Marketers are really excited by this new ability to track, but CFOs are more excited," said TechTarget CEO Greg Strakosch.
Even more established brands have guaranteed a specific ROI. Forbes.com has introduced a money-back guarantee that a minimum of $100,000 spent over 60 days on its site will boost a company’s brand metrics.
Similarly, Investors Business Daily has developed a 30% guarantee: If a marketer runs the same size ad and schedule in IBD and The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, IBD will guarantee a 30% lower cost-per-lead.
IDC, the research arm of technology media company International Data Group, recently created the CMO Advisory Service to provide benchmarks and other research for tech marketers. A recent study by the group concluded: "The pressure for improved marketing measurement and ROI data will continue beyond the onset of the recovery."
But can a media property fairly measure the success of a b-to-b marketer’s advertising? Donna Mercer, media director at advertising agency Howard, Merrell & Partners, said, "I don’t know how a media company can tell me how my ad is working. … They really can’t tell me if my ad moved product."
Indeed, while some media companies are offering measurement, most of the hunger for ROI is in the belly of the marketer. "There’s more pressure to quantify the value we’re bringing to the business," said Bhagat, who is helping to develop a stricter ROI program for Computer Associates’ marketing expenditures.
CA is in the process of implementing a sophisticated measurement program to examine how marketing affects sales. It’s hard to imagine that this ambitious software system will be dismantled when the recession ends.
"Certain media are acknowledging and embracing [ROI measurement] and leading the industry by recognizing that this is not going away," Bhagat said.
The brands that populate the next Media Power 50 will likely be those implementing programs to help their advertisers to measure effectiveness.Top 10 Profiles
1. The Wall Street Journal
Battered by the tech wreck and a downturn in financial services, The Wall Street Journal saw its ad linage drop 17.6% in 2002, compared with 2001.
Under such circumstances, there are not many publications that could avoid the impression that their editorial quality or the reach of their circulation is slipping, but the Journal seems beyond reproach in good times or in bad—at least according to b-to-b media strategists. They still embrace the newspaper as the best place to put a b-to-b ad.
"Sure, there’s a bit of a downturn there, but as far as editorial product and reach, it’s still a can’t-miss vehicle," said Al Samuelian, associate media director at Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos Inc., Boston. "It definitely is the bible as far as reaching business influencers."
Not only is the newspaper delivered to a powerful and broad subscriber base, the executives who receive it read it. The Journal’s own research found that readers spend 52 minutes a day with the paper. Research by advertising agency Doremus, which surveyed top executives last year, showed that the Journal had 92% readership, and 57% of respondents considered it a "must-read."
It’s considered a must-read because of its unequaled business coverage. "It’s the authoritative voice of business," said Donna Mercer, partner-media director at Howard, Merrell & Partners, Raleigh, N.C.
The Journal made several moves since the start of last year to strengthen its editorial presentation. It added color to the newspaper, rearranged its front page and added the Personal Journal section.
Alterations to the print Journal were only the most visible changes at Dow Jones. The company also shuffled executives in the past year. The latest change was the naming of Scott Schulman as senior VP-sales and marketing. Schulman formerly was president of Dow Jones’ consumer electronic publishing division.
Schulman’s appointment makes him the point man for a new advertising sales strategy at Dow Jones. While most business media companies have emphasized multimedia sales packages for a decade or more, Dow Jones has only recently begun to take full advantage of its arsenal.
Beyond the print Journal and its editions in Europe and Asia, Dow Jones’ firepower includes Barron’s, SmartMoney, The Wall Street Journal Interactive and The Wall Street Journal Radio Network. Additionally, Dow Jones has an advertising and content relationship with CNBC that allows it to include cable news advertising in the mix.
Dow Jones has committed to offering more integrated marketing packages to advertisers. "We definitely want to emphasize these assets and coordinate more strategically between them," Schulman said.
Cigna and United Technologies Corp. are two key examples of b-to-b companies taking advantage of Dow Jones’ new commitment to integration. Beginning this month, Cigna will use the Journal, Barron’s, CNBC, co-sponsored events and other Dow Jones properties to communicate the message that Cigna is more than an employee benefits company; it is also a financial services company.
Ed Faruolo, Cigna’s VP-marketing/brand strategy, said he couldn’t think of a better place than the Journal to reach the appropriate audience. "We want The Wall Street Journal marquee effect," he said.
United Technologies plans to use the Journal, Barron’s, The Wall Street Journal Radio Network, events and wsj.com to reach the institutional investor community with a new brand message for the company. Chris Phillip, senior VP-media director for Doremus, United Technologies’ agency, was impressed by the integrated package delivered by Dow Jones. "They’re new at the game," he said. "It’s all brand new to them, but they did a great job right out of the gate."
2. The New York Times
Watch out Wall Street Journal; your good neighbor, The New York Times, is right behind you in the minds of b-to-b media strategists, landing the paper in the top 10 of our Media Power 50 report for the first time.
Strong reporting on military operations in the Middle East and on the global SARS scare—in addition to its ever-improving business coverage—make the Times the morning’s first read for many business leaders in New York and throughout the U.S.
"Certainly, the current news environment has made our newspaper more relevant than ever," said Jyll Holzman, the Times’ senior VP-advertising. "It’s critical for executives to follow the events going on around the globe, and they’re more often turning to us for balanced, in-depth information."
The Times already had been gaining in appeal with b-to-b advertisers, mainly through its expanded focus on topics such as corporate travel and technology, the addition of several columnists to its Business Day section and its expanding national presence. The newspaper is now available in 241 markets nationwide, up from just 62 in 1997, giving it a daily circulation of 1.1 million, and 1.7 million on Sundays.
In some media strategists’ opinion, the Times’ Business Day goes toe-to-toe with the Journal for scoops. In particular, the Times excels in its coverage of the financial, computer and advertising industries.
"The New York Times is one excellent vehicle that also has a strong regional [New York] focus,’ said Donna Mercer, media director at Howard, Merrell & Partners. "I think they’re a good complement if you’re trying to talk to Wall Street … or if you’re trying to make an impression on Madison Avenue."
Holzman said the Times recently made strong commitments to growing its market share in the b-to-b advertising category.
"We’re constantly looking to bolster our advertising packages and production capabilities," Holzman said. Add to that opportunities to exploit cross-media efficiencies through the acclaimed nytimes.com site, and "we’re giving marketers every incentive to run in one of the best editorial environments for b-to-b," she said.
Just last year, Google.com was bragging that it had more than 10,000 b-to-b and consumer advertisers. Already this year, the search engine site has eclipsed 100,000.
Google has gone gangbusters during the economic downturn, picking up business from marketers looking for cheaper, more performance-driven methods of generating leads, selling products and boosting brand awareness.
"Search offers [decision-makers] a chance to reach potential customers during every part of the buying cycle," said David Hirsch, director of Google’s B2B Vertical Markets Group. "Search has become an essential part of an ROI-focused marketing mix. Of course, we think we do search better than anyone."
Adds John Keck, media strategist at Doner, "Right now Google owns search."
But why has Google done so well so fast, especially in the b-to-b space?
It’s not just about the numbers, though they are increasingly impressive. The site draws more than 52.6 million unique visitors per month—making it the fifth-ranked Internet property worldwide—who conduct more than 200 million individual searches per day. The Google click-through rate averages 2%, nearly five times greater than the industry standard for banners.
"However, our success on both b-to-b and consumer fronts is all about relevancy; not sheer reach," Hirsch said. "You’ll simply never see an untargeted ad on Google."
Since it first began selling ads about three years ago, the company was wise to invest its time and money into building a very sophisticated marketing organization, including the B2B Vertical Markets Group. "We’ve worked diligently to cover all the major b-to-b vertical industries, ranging from manufacturing to healthcare," Hirsch said. "We’ve nurtured deep relationships with companies, associations and customers in these industries, as well as developed an understanding of the words and phrases most often used in searches."
In recent months, Google has expanded its reach by syndicating its ads with partners such as AOL and Ask Jeeves. Even more important to b-to-b marketers, the search site announced in March it is employing its industry-leading technology to target content on news sites—currently those of several newspapers. Soon this will expand to business media sites. And it will place relevant Google text ads on them, with a commission going to the news organization.
"We’ll keep expanding our efforts as long as it makes sense for our advertisers and our users," Hirsch said.
4. "Lou Dobbs Moneyline"
Marketers that have advertised on CNN’s "Lou Dobbs Moneyline" run the gamut of b-to-b industries, including technology (IBM Corp.), financial services (Merrill Lynch), agriculture (Archer Daniels Midland Co.), aerospace (Boeing Co.) and industrial (General Electric Co.) Note that b-to-b heavyweight GE is appearing on CNN even though it has an ownership stake in MSNBC and CNBC.
A big reason "Lou Dobbs Moneyline," which airs daily at 6 p.m. Eastern, consistently attracts advertisers is Dobbs himself. "Lou is kind of a brand name on his own, which attracts a lot of financial advertisers," said Greg D’Alba, CNN’s exec VP-sales and marketing.
Al Samuelian, associate media director at Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos Inc., whose clients include FleetBoston Financial, agreed. "You know what you’re getting with Lou Dobbs," he said. "It’s information people can use. It’s daily. It’s topical. It’s high end."
Mike Paradiso, worldwide media director for Computer Associates, added: "It’s a premier player for reaching a b-to-b audience."
According to D’Alba, Dobbs brings more to the anchor desk than do most financial reporters on TV.
"In the past year and a half, ‘Moneyline’ has morphed into a news hour that is not just financial news but looks at the economy as a whole and how it’s affected by world news," he said. "That Lou does very well."
"Lou Dobbs Moneyline" boosted its advertising revenue in 2002 over 2001, jumping to $47.2 million from $35.9 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
The value of "Lou Dobbs Moneyline," said media strategists, is in the business audience delivered at a reasonable price.
Although Fox News Channel may win the ratings battle, media strategists such as Foote Cone Belding Worldwide’s Tyler Schaeffer point out that CNN wins the battle for cumulative viewers.
The argument is that, at any one time, more viewers may be watching Fox News Channel, but they tend to be the same viewers. On CNN, there are fewer viewers at any one time, but over the course of, say, four weeks, more total unique viewers are tuning to CNN.
That’s one reason why in 2002, CNN’s total ad revenues were $352.4 million, compared with $91.6 million for Fox News Channel, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
For the remainder of 2003, D’Alba appears optimistic regarding "Moneyline." Although war coverage eliminated some ad revenue, the effect was temporary. "We’ve retained most of our advertisers," D’Alba said.
Let’s get to Fortune's bad news firsts: The business biweekly saw a 12% decline in ad revenue between 2001 and 2002, dropping between $33.8 million to $293.7 million. Of course, virtually every business publication lost revenue last year, and most were hurt far worse than Fortune.
But there’s lots of good news for the venerable magazine: Circulation reached a record high in the second half of 2002; ad revenues were up in the first quarter of this year; and the publication’s conference business has never been better. Not many competitors can make similar claims.
Even more important, Fortune's in-depth and incisive editorial content has never been more valuable to readers and advertisers.
"Fortune still offers more of the longer length editorial...so readers spend more time with it," said Kevin Arsham, strategy supervisor at OMD, global media partner of BBDO.
Other media buyers said the magazine remains at the top of the pile when it comes to what CEOs and other senior executives actually read. Also, the Fortune 500 and emerging lists, such as the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, provide business clout like no other publication.
Advertisers believe that Fortune continues to improve its leverage of AOL Time Warner’s top-notch broadcast and Internet properties. "We’ve been doing more integrating, more cross-platform offerings with CNN, CNN Online, Fortune.com and AOL," said Fortune Associate Publisher John Donnelly, who was recently promoted from national advertising director. "We’ve generated incremental revenue from 11 accounts, and we hope we’ll continue to get more."
Donnelly said that despite the drop in ad revenue last year, Fortune did well in the telecommunication and insurance industries, and scored some exclusive wins—such as ads from Steelcase Inc. office furniture and United Bank of Switzerland commercial banking.
Newsstand sales continue to be a bright spot. "We’re up 4.6% over a year ago," Donnelly said, "and we still hold a two-to-one edge over our closest competitors."
John Keck, media strategist at Doner, said Fortune’s newsstand performance, compared with that of BusinessWeek and Forbes, is a great advantage to advertisers because newsstand copies generate about five times the response rate for ads as subscription copies.
While the ad market looks soft across the board for the second quarter, Donnelly thinks better times are coming. He’s already ramping up for 2004, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the Fortune 500.
6) Aviation Week & Space Technology
On Saturday, Feb. 1, Senior Editor Craig Covault of McGraw-Hill’s Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, posted a story on the magazine’s AviationNow Web site that scooped every journalist in the world. Covault was first with the U.S. Air Force photos and a report indicating damage to the space shuttle Columbia’s left wing.
"We broke the story of the why and the how," said Aviation Week Exec VP-Publisher Kenneth E. Gazzola.
The commitment to covering news is not limited to the space program. Aviation Week sent senior Pentagon editor Robert Wall to the Persian Gulf to cover the war in Iraq. He spent time on an aircraft carrier as well as with a Marine squadron. "We’re over there getting a sense of the troops in the field and their ability to manage this process [fighting a war with complex weapons systems] and how they feel about its success," Gazzola said.
For content such as this, 105,000 people in 180 countries are willing to pay to subscribe to Aviation Week. Readers are in the government/military, manufacturing, commercial aviation and financial sectors.
"It’s a powerful circulation," Gazzola said. "I don’t know any publisher who’d want a controlled circulation when he can have a paid circulation."
With this coveted audience, Aviation Week’s pages feature advertisements from a host of b-to-b marketers, including GE Aircraft Engines, Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed-Martin and Northrup-Grumman.
"It’s still a strong play in the aviation market," said Kevin Arsham, media supervisor at OMD, the global media partner of BBDO, New York. "If I really want to reach airline executives, I’m definitely going to have that in my plan."
But with the current travails of the commercial airline industry, Aviation Week is struggling with a downturn in ad revenues. They fell from $26.2 million in 2001 to $23.1 million last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting, New York. Gazzola said that some competitors that cover only commercial aviation were off 30%, but Aviation Week, because it also covers military and aerospace, has a buffer.
Even with the revenue fall-off, 2002 was not as bad for Aviation Week as it looked, and Gazzola said ad pages are up single digits so far this year.
What helped protect Aviation Week’s revenues in 2002 was its brand extensions. The magazine has continued to invest in AviationNow, and is converting much of the site to paid content. It is also striving to offer more targeted content on the Web to allow, for instance, military users to filter out information relevant only to the commercial aviation industry.
Additionally, Aviation Week now conducts 14 conferences, including its Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul Conference and Exhibition, which attracted 4,500 attendees and nearly 500 exhibitors last month in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"Revenue [for conferences] was up in 2002, believe it or not," Gazzola said.
Like most business publications, McGraw-Hill Cos.’ BusinessWeek suffered a decline in ad revenue in 2002. Its revenues tumbled 10.8% to $351.6 million, from $394.3 million in 2001, according to Publishers Information Bureau figures. Despite the drop, BusinessWeek outdistanced its main competitors, Fortune and Forbes, by more than $50 million in ad revenue.
"It’s No. 1 because of its brand extensions," said Michael Paradiso, worldwide media director for Computer Associates, which has run pages in BusinessWeek and banners on businessweek.com, and has sponsored a number of BusinessWeek conferences.
Geoff Dodge, BusinessWeek’s associate publisher and U.S. ad director, said the brand begins with the magazine. "Editorial and circulation—nothing happens if you don’t get those right," he said.
BusinessWeek reaches 987,369 business people in North America. The magazine, Dodge said, is confident enough in the strength of its circulation that it raised its rate base to 970,000 from 950,000.
Dodge said BusinessWeek’s ultimate strength is its editorial. Its commitment to editorial is evident in the masthead—the long list of editors and reporters recorded in small type in every issue of the magazine. The payoff from this investment comes in comprehensive reporting. Dodge contends that BusinessWeek’s frequency, which some see as a weakness, boosts the ability of its reporters to go in-depth. "It’s an advantage that we’re a weekly and not a daily [so we can] stand back and analyze stories and comment on the implications," he said.
Jane Groft, senior VP-corporate media director at Publics & Hal Riney, San Francisco, is a great believer in BusinessWeek. The ad agency’s client Hewlett-Packard Co. has been using the magazine and its brand extensions for brand messaging.
The publication is not only well read, it is read well, Groft said: "They have very high ad recall. We feel that our ads are getting seen, which implies that the reader is very involved, and that gives us a chance for our ads to be more noticed."
Groft added that BusinessWeek goes to great lengths to provide HP with strong marketing opportunities in print, online and in person. "They are a great marketing partner," she said.
A key factor in this HP relationship is that BusinessWeek itself is such a widely respected brand. "You want to be associated with a well-respected, excellent brand," Groft said. "If you’re looking to make a statement about your client’s brand, you can do that far better in a well-respected publication."
From the beginning, Dow Jones & Co.’s online strategy has been contrarian and aggressive. While other Web sites seemed happy to provide free content and charge only for advertising, The Wall Street Journal Online went against the grain, deciding to charge for both.
The out-of-the-ordinary approach has paid off: By the end of 2002, wsj.com had 679,000 subscribers who paid as much as $79 for a year’s access to the site. At the end of 2001, the site had 626,000 paid subscribers. Wsj.com has the largest subscription base of any news site on the Internet.
The subscribers come to the site because of the content, which is both broad and deep. The site, of course, uses content from the print Wall Street Journal, as well as material from the Dow Jones newswires and other company properties. Subscribers can format their interface to track individual corporations or specific industries.
It’s a simple equation: Wsj.com’s content attracts subscribers, and the subscribers attract advertisers. Sun Microsystems and Intel Corp. are just two of the major b-to-b advertisers that have used wsj.com.
According to Todd Larsen, president of Dow Jones Consumer Electronic Publishing, which oversees the Online Journal, advertisers also come to wsj.com because of its environment. The site is uncluttered, he said, and the Online Journal’s ad sizes ensure that a marketing message will get noticed.
Additionally, the Online Journal offers targeted ads that appear near content of interest to those in a particular industry, such as agribusiness.
"I think it [wsj.com] is very strong," said Chris Phillip, senior VP-media director at Doremus. "When we’re trying to reach a b-to-b market, even if we don’t have a budget to do a page in the [print] Journal, it’s a very nice alternative to use wsj.com. You can target a little bit more by industry."
While the Online Journal is about as broad as a business site can get, it also attempts to cater to vertical audiences. Last year, it launched a Health Industry edition that attracted "thousands" of new subscribers, Larsen said. Additionally, page views of health-care content increased 10-fold, according to Dow Jones.
This month, the Online Journal is adding a Marketing & Media edition that will provide streamlined access to marketing, media and entertainment content. The Online Journal expects another bump in subscribers from this move, and it is only beginning to explore how vertical versions of the Web site might appeal to advertisers.
"By and large, it was a subscriber- and circulation-oriented initiative," Larsen said. "But along the way it has yielded some attractive advertising opportunities."
9. Information Week
Pummeled by plummeting ad expenditures by technology marketers, CMP Media’s InformationWeek saw its advertising revenues slip from $137.5 million in 2001 to $108.1 million in 2002, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Nonetheless, InformationWeek keeps its place among the Top 10 of BtoB’s Media Power 50 because it is still the biggest strictly b-to-b tech publication there is.
"InformationWeek will always be important," said Brett Stewart, senior VP-global account director at Universal McCann, San Francisco.
And InformationWeek is not sitting idly by while its ad revenue dwindles. The publication is aggressively preserving its relevance by changing with the times.
"There’s a trend toward the vertical," said Mike Friedenberg, InformationWeek VP-publisher. "It’s becoming more important for brands like InformationWeek to provide breadth and depth."
Like all of the most powerful names in business journalism, InformationWeek has expanded its brand in many directions. New brands such as Optimize magazine and a consulting arm have allowed the publication to continue providing horizontal reach to advertisers while introducing more vertical industry and niche marketing opportunities.
"InformationWeek continues to commit—more than any other publication that I’m aware of—to study what their readers want," said Sam Whitmore, editor of mediasurvey.com.
Observers believe readers want more practical information and more vertical industry information. So, to deliver information about putting business strategy to work in the real world, InformationWeek launched Optimize, a monthly publication with a circulation of 70,000 top IT executives. It also introduced a quarterly supplement, "Government Enterprise," and plans to add a health-care industry supplement later this year, Friedenberg said.
The decline in revenue for the flagship publication is somewhat misleading. When its brand extensions are factored in, InformationWeek is generating more revenue than it did in the late 1990s, Friedenberg noted.
Even with the brand extensions, the print version remains the focal point for most advertisers. For instance, SAS Institute, which markets data-mining and other software, depends on InformationWeek’s broad reach to communicate with the wide range of companies that can use SAS software.
"It’s a good environment to be in," said Laura Wilson, SAS’ director of advertising strategy. "The goal of our advertising campaign is to generate inquires. There’s a large part of the circulation in InformationWeek that we want to reach. InformationWeek is a staple."
10. "The O’Reilly Factor," Fox News Channel
Many advertisers strive to avoid controversy when they can, but they’ve learned to embrace it to reach the loyal, attentive audience of Fox News Channel’s "The O’Reilly Factor." The list of companies running ads on this top-ranked cable news show reads like a "Who’s Who" of b-to-b marketers—American Express, Bank of America, Cisco Systems, FedEx, Microsoft and dozens more—even though conservative host Bill O’Reilly often skewers the nation’s power players in his so-called "No Spin Zone."
Media strategists are reluctant to comment on "The O’Reilly Factor" for two reasons. One, some companies and agencies don’t want to align themselves with O’Reilly himself, who "comes off like a jerk or a genius, depending on whom you talk to," said one buyer. Two, they feel the show, which airs at 8 p.m. Eastern Monday through Friday, still has a long way to go in terms of overall respect and ad revenue.
According to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, FNC trailed CNN by a wide measure from January through October 2002 (the most recent period for which figures were available), with $94.5 million in ad revenue compared with CNN’s $26.2 million.
But the war in Iraq may have helped change all that. FNC’s audience and revenues soared in March, which many analysts say was due to its focus on analysis and the ever-present news scroll.
"Fox News Channel’s annual ad revenue now stands at $200 million," said Roger Domal, VP-national sales. "And `The O’Reilly Factor’ makes up about a 10th of that."
Moreover, "The O’Reilly Factor" audience hit a record high of an average of 3.9 million viewers nightly in March, compared with 2.7 million viewers in February (before the war broke out).
"We lost some of those viewers in April, as everyone has," Domal said. "But it’s only a 18% drop, compared with other shows that lost viewers in the 20% to 30% range. In the end, we believe we’ll have made a significant net gain of regular viewers."
It doesn’t hurt that this pundit of the moment is seemingly everywhere these days. O’Reilly has two bestsellers in bookstores, "The O’Reilly Factor" and "The No Spin Zone," and a daily radio talk show, "The Radio Factor."
"People can’t wait to hear what he’ll say next," Domal said. "O’Reilly has an immense and intense following that includes those who don’t usually agree with him."
Although viewers may argue about whether O’Reilly provides fair and objective journalism, they do keep coming back—perhaps just for controversy’s sake. And that’s something an increasing number of advertisers and media buyers can’t afford to ignore, especially with cable’s bang for the buck in the b-to-b space.
In making the selections for the Media Power 50 list, BtoB editors employed both objective and subjective criteria. They also evaluated data such as ad revenue and audience and interviewed about two dozen top media buyers, advertisers and industry analysts for their opinions on the most powerful and targeted b-to-b advertising venues. A panel of editors and reporters chose the Media Power 50. Crain Communications Inc. titles and those of its direct competitors were excluded from consideration.