Look past current media upheavals and see the audience

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It doesn't much matter what category or market you are in. If you're in the b-to-b media space, there are plenty of things to keep you up at night. Despite the challenges, there is an incredible amount of opportunity out there if we can remember one thing: Our business is still about the audience. To be sure, that audience is changing in Internet time, both in terms of what it wants from us and how it wants it. Moreover, this change is going to accelerate as younger people become a larger part of our audience. From my perspective, the first thing to realize is the old world of aggregating an audience of importance and offering it to the customer is a strategy for extinction. In the new media model, you must offer your audience the capability to form on its own and to build its own groups around subjects it collectively believes to be important. You have a different mission in this new world: making sure this happens on your platform, with your tools. After that, it's up to you to capitalize on these communities. My audience of high-tech businesses is loaded with early adopters. This forces us to move quickly to new offerings. We were on the Internet within a few months of the Netscape browser launch. Our online media business outstripped print, in size and profit, long ago; and my Internet traffic and revenue growth last year were in the double digits. Despite this good news, a constant challenge is forcing change and staying ahead of the curve. Look at social media, which is taking hold far beyond the college age group where it began. I look at social media as a publishing platform that has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Its core strength is the viral nature of its audience-building capability. The audience's members literally help build the audience. But that's also a big danger for media companies. You may wake up one day to find some social media platform—not one of your own—has a better and more active relationship with your audience than you do. But there are also other strengths. Social media allows multiple, small groups of highly self-selected interests to build their own communities. There's inherent value in an audience that forms on its own around a specific topic. I'd argue there is premium value there. Let's also not forget that the reason members engage in social media is because of the other members—and the potential for interaction with them. In the professional space, that interaction revolves around discussions pertaining to business problems and opportunities. Is this the answer to all your media issues? Absolutely not. Outsell just released a study that showed a 28% improvement in leads from cross-media campaigns—multiple touch points are still very important to the audience. Social media is, however, an important element of diversification across your portfolio and a way to hedge your bets. Here at Everything Channel, we examine our audience and customer needs more holistically today than we did a decade ago. Today, I want to solve any and all problems my customers face in their attempt to recruit, sell to and manage my audience. It's why we have face-to-face as well as virtual online events. It's why we have print and online media. It's the reason behind our education business. It's what drove us to launch a consulting and research business. It's why we have field sales, and marketing capability and several call centers to execute on driving sales for customers. Our objective is to do everything our customers need to do with our audience, all the way from access to execution. Realizing that clients wish to sell more product and not only drive product awareness means there is much more opportunity to drive product development that helps customers do just that. Social media is one more arrow in an increasingly stuffed media platform quiver that, in the end, combine to offer a complete solution to the customer's problem. Robert Faletra is CEO of Everything Channel, a divi--sion of United Business Media. He can be reached at [email protected]
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