BtoB's Media 50 list is a diverse collection of media properties ideally suited for reaching an executive audience. The list has five categories: Vertical Publications; Newspaper and General Business Publications; TV and Radio Programs; Internet Properties; and Trade Show and Outdoor Properties.
From these categories, we've created a Top 10 list of the most powerful b-to-b media outlets.
Contributing to the diversity of our Media 50 is the way b-to-b companies market their goods and services today, which has changed considerably in the past decade. As recently as 1985, a list of the 50 most powerful business-to-business media properties would have looked much different than the one BtoB has compiled. Back then, when print ruled b-to-b marketing, our list might have included The Wall Street Journal, the Big Three business magazines, and the 46 biggest trade publications. No longer.
"B-to-b advertising is not about balancing reach and frequency [in trade publications] anymore," says Sarah Fay, managing director at Carat Freeman, Newton, Mass. "It's about establishing credibility with a smaller group of key people." And these days, that key group of people is a moving target. Reaching this audience can include sponsoring a National Public Radio program, having the cash or the luck to secure a prominent billboard, or running expensive TV spots. "TV can have a big psychological impact," Fay says.
A number of interrelated trends have forced b-to-b advertising and marketing to use what have historically been consumer media. The importance of the investor audience has affected where b-to-b advertising runs, making it more consumer-oriented.
More importantly, the rise of the PC and the Internet has changed the way many products and services are purchased by companies. Because computerization affects every silo of an enterprise, top management takes a more active role in selecting vendors.
The drive to reach this top management audience is a key to the continued dominance of The Wall Street Journal, which is BtoB's choice for the most powerful media brand. Tech b-to-b advertisers have swarmed to the publication. "Technology is our largest advertising category," says Stephen Howe, the Journal's VP-advertising.
Tech has also powered the rise of Internet publications The Industry Standard and Business 2.0, both of which are about two years old. With triple-digit ad page increases, the books are thick enough to harm small children. The inclusion of these magazines on our overall Top 10 list illuminates the fact that media strategists constantly look out for new hot properties to get their clients' messages noticed.
Two general business publications--Business Week and Fortune--also ranked in the overall Top 10. Media strategists identified both as superior brands that carry with them instant credibility. Media strategists also ranked Forbes highly, but perceive it, despite its strong tech coverage, as the most "old school" of the Big Three.
The two TV offerings that rated in the Top 10 are CNN and CNBC properties, both of which reach the management and investor target. Both cable outlets are winning heaps of tech advertising, but members of old line industries--such as Burlington Northern Santa Fe--have run cable spots to reach investors.
A program such as the Super Bowl reaches more top managers than CNN and CNBC put together, and it has attracted significant b-to-b advertisers in recent years. But some media strategists shied away from the high holiday of broadcasting, because they couldn't justify the expense of the once-a-year venue.
Choosing vertical publications proved a quandary for the overall Top 10 list, because by their nature they serve niche markets and usually target well below management level. But InformationWeek reaches CIOs and CEOs in a variety of industries, and it was one of a handful of tech publications to hold onto ad pages in 1999, while others were experiencing double-digit declines.
Media strategists like the other vertical on the list, Aviation Week and Space Technology, because it has a dominant brand in its industry. Aviation Week also has a fully-paid circulation, a rarity in trade publishing.
Ranking publications for the list of vertical publications also proved difficult, and many strong contenders were left off, Builder and Billboard among them.
The Highway 101 billboard makes the BtoB list simply because of supply and demand. With billboards sold out all through the Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs floated billboard barges in the bay near U.S. Highway 101 to fulfill the demand.
Missing from the Top 10 are trade shows and conferences. Media strategists said that trade shows, like vertical publications, are fragmented by design, serving niche markets.
Also noticeably absent from the Top 10 are Web properties. This is for the simple reason that so far, despite the hype, Internet advertising remains a small slice of the b-to-b marketing pie. Consider these numbers: In 1999, ad spending in trade and business publications totaled about $8 billion, according to the American Business Media's Business Information Network figures. The 1999 aggregate of consumer and b-to-b advertising on the Web was a fraction of that, just $4.6 billion, according to Internet Advertising Bureau figures.
But Internet advertising increased by more than 140% last year, to $4.6 billion in 1999. If that growth continues, look for a Web site to crack the overall Top 10 in 2001.
Let the jockeying for position begin.
NO. 1: THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Phone: (800) 568-7625
Ad revenues: $685.6 million
Cost: $194,452 per 1P4C
The popularity of The Wall Street Journal among b-to-b advertisers runs broad and deep. Daily, the paper's pages are filled with old-guard technology companies and dot-coms, mortal enemies such as Oracle Corp. and Microsoft Corp., as well as giants in telecommunications, financial services, travel, energy and professional services.
Virtually any weekday, its ad pages read like a Who's Who of b-to-b marketers. The reasons are simple. "It's unique, authoritative, quickly consumed, and it reaches the top of the ladder," says Tyler Schaeffer, a media strategist with Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide, New York.
Dow Jones & Co. reported that advertising linage in The Journal is up 38.2% in the first quarter 2000 compared with the first quarter 1999. That increase builds on a strong 1999, which saw advertising linage up 17.9% from 1998.
Danforth W. Austin, the newspaper's VP-general manager, says the growth in advertising has its seeds in The Journal's editorial. "The depth of coverage, especially in the technology-related fields, is bringing the kind of audience that makes The Journal pretty attractive to anyone who is a b-to-b marketer," Austin says.
The Journal boasts about 50 editors and reporters covering technology. "I can remember years ago we had one or two people devoted to technology, and I think they covered IBM," Austin notes wryly.
The commitment to technology coverage is evident beyond the paper's special e-commerce sections. On a recent front page, for instance, a story on the proposed breakup of Microsoft ran next to a piece examining the increased pressure for dot-com profits.
"It's hard to imagine a chief executive of any kind of serious company not reading The Journal, and if he doesn't I probably wouldn't want to be a shareholder of that company," Austin says.
But it's not just the management of large companies who are reading the newspaper. Austin says that while 37% of readers work for companies with 1,000 or more employees, 43% of readers work for companies with 100 or fewer employees.
In recent years, The Journal has extended its brand beyond print and beyond North America. The holdings of Dow Jones & Co., which started as a newswire service that employed young boys to deliver handwritten notes with the latest business news to subscribers, now includes The Wall Street Journal Europe, The Asian Wall Street Journal and The Wall Street Journal Interactive. The Journal also provides content to CNBC.
Sarah Fay, managing director and media strategist at Carat Freeman, Newton, Mass., puts it simply: "I don't think there's any media property that carries an aura like The Wall Street Journal," she says.
NO. 2: THE INDUSTRY STANDARD
Phone: (415) 733-5400
Ad revenue: $44.7 million
Cost: $15,950 per 1PBW; $20,900 per 1P4C
When it launched in April 1998, The Industry Standard was the first publication to fully address the Internet--not as a technology story but as a business story.
Covering the Web's invasion of the boardroom has won The Industry Standard a devoted readership, which in turn has won it equally devoted b-to-b advertisers. A recent issue of the International Data Group title featured ad pages ranging from b-to-b giants like Microsoft Corp., IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. to dot-coms like Engage, Yellowpages.com, and NorthernLight.com. Even Juno, the dot-com embarrassed in an Industry Standard story about alleged sexual harassment within the company, is running ads in the magazine.
To play in the new economy, it seems, it helps to run ads in The Industry Standard. Between the first quarter of 1999 and the first quarter of 2000, the magazine's ad pages jumped a mind-boggling 542%, from 273.33 to 1,753.90, according to Adscope Inc., a Eugene, Ore.-based tracking service.
Publisher Steven Thompson credits much of the magazine's growth to a strategy of building brand across a range of media platforms, especially the Internet. The publication sports an admired Web site and 18 e-mail newsletters. And The Industry Standard has created a strong series of conferences, including its soldout iB2B conference earlier this year, which juxtaposed speakers such as FedEx Corp. founder Fred Smith with VerticalNet Inc. President-CEO Mark Walsh.
"It really has to be an integrated offering," Thompson says, noting that "everything is integrally linked with the Web site."
Â Others cite the editorial product, which attempts to take the pulse of the new economy every week, and brings together data to gauge the health of the Internet world.
Sam Whitmore, editor of mediasurvey.com, a Web site that covers publishing, gives credit to the journalistic team assembled to create the magazine. "[Editor in chief] Jonathan Weber is just one of the best, and without a doubt he hired a brilliant staff," Whitmore says. "[The Industry Standard] is sort of like the Yankees. They spent the money, and they've got a deep and very good team."
NO. 3: BUSINESS WEEK
Phone: (212) 512-2000
Circulation: 923,786 (North America)
Ad revenues: $483,754 million (Publishers Information Bureau)
Cost: $57,400 per 1PBW; $85,000 per 1P4C (North America)
Despite encroachment from Internet business upstarts such as The Industry Standard, many traditional business magazines have continued to increase their ad pages. Business Week, for instance, is booming. Ad pages at the McGraw-Hill Cos. title were up 31.8%, to 1,145.92, in the first quarter of 2000, from 869.95 in the first quarter of 1999. And that increase comes on the heels of 22.9% growth in 1999.
William Kupper, president-publisher of the Business Week group, says the increase validates the magazine's decision in the mid '90s to expand its technology coverage, and its choice two years ago to boost Internet coverage. He points to Business Week's e.biz supplement, which sold out all five times it appeared in 1999. The supplement will appear nine times in 2000, and a dozen times next year. Nor is technology coverage new for the magazine: "Business Week started covering technology with the transistor in 1954," Kupper says.
Media strategists say the brand remains strong. "It gets that [CEO, CFO, CIO, COO] audience," says Sarah Fay, managing director at Carat Freeman, Newton, Mass. "It's still a behemoth in the business-to-business category."
NO. 4: CNN "AHEAD OF THE CURVE"
Phone: (212) 852-6900
Ad revenues: $800 million (CNN News Group Sales, 1999, includes all CNN Properties.)
Cost: $3,500 and up for a :30 spot (according to industry buyers)
"Ahead of the Curve" strives to live up to its title every business day, a key factor in driving the Cable News Network's early-morning programming appeal to business executives. "It's a two-hour block of business and financial news, one that brings together developments internationally as well as a recap and look ahead domestically," says Larry Grossman, president, CNN sales and marketing.
Beginning at 5 a.m. Eastern time, open-rate commercial time during the two-hour block begins at $3,500 per 30-second spot, according to media buyers. The network claims it reaches 64% of households with a "total asset" value of more than $2 million, and 55% of all households valued between $1 million and $2 million. Its upscale, affluent audience attracts advertisers in the wireless, high-tech, financial services and automotive categories.
"Business shows like `Ahead of the Curve' are doing well because business leaders are looking for immediacy in a medium outside the Internet," says Brad Adgate, senior VP-director of research, Horizon Media, a New York media consultancy. "They want the latest news, and they will more often look at the TV before going on the Web."
NO. 5: BUSINESS 2.0
Phone: (415) 468-4684
Ad revenue: $15 million
Cost: $21,601 per 1P4C
Michela O'Connor Abrams remembers the initial response to Business 2.0 when it launched in 1998. "People were saying, 'Why do you need a new business magazine or a new Internet magazine? There are plenty of both,'" recalls Abrams, Business 2.0's publisher.
Combining elements of business and Internet publications, Brisbane, Calif.-based Imagine Media's title focuses on exploring the Internet's impact on old-line industries.
Abrams says the magazine reaches "transformers," the people turning bricks and mortar into clicks and mortar. And these e-business executives appear to be folks that marketers, especially b-to-b marketers, want to reach. In the first quarter, Business 2.0 logged 602.43 ad pages, nearly 300% more than in the same period last year, according to Publishers Information Bureau figures.
Responding to the staggering growth, with its June 13 issue Business 2.0 is increasing its frequency to biweekly from monthly. That might solve the problem of the magazine's intimidating 400-plus-page folios. But even the publication's weightiness doesn't deter media strategist Caroline Riby of Saatchi & Saatchi Rowland, Rochester, N.Y. "It's such a refreshing thing to see a business book jump into a category and be right on top of what's happening," she says.
NO. 6: CNBC "BUSINESS DAY"
Phone: (201) 585-2622
Ad revenues: N/A
Cost: $15,000 per :30 spot
CNBC's "Business Day" aims to provide early-morning viewers with the latest business and financial news, both domestic and international, before many have even poured their first cup of coffee.
Starting at 5 a.m. Eastern time, "Business Day" pulls in an average rating of 0.5 (375,000 households), although network executives contend that audience should be increased by at least 40% to include out-of-home viewers (those in hotels, offices, airports, even fitness clubs). CNBC is available to 72 million households, according to Nielson Media Research; Nielson does not capture out-of-home viewership.
"Business-to-business advertisers recognize the value of the audience we're able to aggregate during these program hours," says Mark Miller, VP-advertising sales, CNBC. The most heavily watched hour of "Business Day" programming is between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Eastern time, when the New York financial markets close. The open rate for a 30-second commercial during that hour is $15,000, according to the network.
The network says it expects ad revenue of $225 million this year. Advertisers include E*Trade, Fidelity Investments, Omega Research, The Williams Co. and Dell Computer.
"The question that CNBC still needs to answer is how many eyeballs really are watching during the day, especially those hours when, supposedly, everyone is busy doing business," says Brad Adgate, senior VP-director of research, Horizon Media, a New York media consultancy. "Is it eye candy, just on in the background, or is it really reaching CEOs and other top business executives?"
NO. 7: FORTUNE
Phone: (212) 522-5082
Ad revenue: $305.7 million
Cost: $71,700 per 1P4C
In the early '90s, Fortune was the third horse in a three-horse race, trailing rivals Business Week and Forbes in virtually every category.
"We were sucking wind, no doubt about it," admits Fortune publisher Mike Federle. The difference today, he says, lies in a better editorial product, especially regarding the magazine's stepped-up coverage of technology, spearheaded by managing editor John Huey.
With a staff populated with reporters such as editor-at-large Brent Schlender, who wrote Fortune's recent cover story about Sun Microsystems Inc.'s CEO Scott McNealy and General Electric Co.'s CEO Jack Welch, the magazine has simply become more interesting to readers, Federle argues. To prove his point, he cites data that show Fortune's share of newsstand sales among the Big 3 jumped from 32% in 1994 to 46% in 1998.
The focus on technology has helped attract readers, which has in turn lured advertisers. Fortune's ad pages grew at a 13% clip last year, jumping to 4,406.26 in 1999 from 3,898.59 in 1998.
"They've differentiated themselves among the business titles as timely and contemporary, which has helped them draw a base of advertisers and has reinvigorated and contemporized the brand," says Tyler Schaeffer, media strategist at Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide, New York.
NO. 8: INFORMATION WEEK
Phone: (516) 562-7911
Ad revenue: $214.9 million
Cost: $41,000 1P4C
Information Week believes its mission is to interpret business trends for high-technology professionals. This is most definitely not a magazine for computer geeks.
"We're about the interplay between technology and business," says Bob Evans, editor in chief. "Technology is important, yes, but ultimately, it's how technology is used to drive business."
Specifically, Information Week readers look for the business benefit behind each new technology move. "They want the new market opportunities, the new revenue streams, how to develop customer loyalty," Evans says.
Analysts think the Miller Freeman title is a standout in the crowded computer press. "It still leads the four IS weeklies in terms of cache," says Sarah Fay, managing director at Carat Freeman, Newton, Mass. "It reaches up to talk about business issues and it puts business words in the mouths of IS people."
That editorial approach is making the magazine a must-read among its 400,000 circulation, primarily computer professionals. Advertisers, particularly high-tech mainstays Intel, Cisco Systems, Micron, IBM and newcomers like Ventro, a b-to-b marketplace, continue to fatten the magazine. Ad pages last year totaled 5,600; the magazine is up 20% year-to-date, with 6,000 ad pages "a reachable goal" this year, says Michael Friedenberg, associate publisher.
"There's an increasingly steady recognition that business is powered by technology," Friedenberg says. "And businesses are focused on how they can leverage their technology to get closer to the customer."
NO. 9: AVIATION WEEK & SPACE TECHNOLOGY
Phone: (212) 904-4626
Ad revenues: $23 million
Circulation: 103,296 (paid)
Cost: $13,155 per 1PBW; $15,335 per 1P4C
Founded in 1916, Aviation Week and Space Technology has thrived because it has changed with the industry it coveres, moving from prop planes to the jet engine to the space program. During the Cold War, Aviation Week focused on defense aircraft and technologies, but when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, so did the ad pages from the publication's traditional military supplier advertisers. That is when Aviation Week began flying in a new direction.
"We're a unique breed," says Kenneth E. Gazzola, exec VP-publisher of the Aviation Week group. "We cover the commercial, military and space industry sectors worldwide, and in each sector, we cover the technology, business and operations in our editorial. Nobody else does that." The shift of coverage away from purely military topics has kept the brand powerful. "We're talking about a strong industry and a publication that's maintained dominance since the trades began publishing in that industry," says Sarah Fay, media strategist with Carat Freeman, Newton, Mass.
Aviation Week has extended its brand and revenue streams to conferences, to television through Discovery Channel documentaries, and to the Internet with its AviationNow.com Web site. But the enduring credibility of the print publication remains the focal point.
"Without Aviation Week," Gazzola says, "we don't have AviationNow."
NO. 10: ELLER MEDIA'S HIGHWAY 101 BILLBOARDS
Phone: (510) 835-5900
Ad revenues: N/A
Cost: $25,000 and up per billboard
U.S. Highway 101 runs deep into the heart of Silicon Valley, a 50-mile stretch that takes commuters past the corporate campuses of Oracle, Apple Computer, Hewlett-Packard Co., Cisco Systems, as well as venture capitalists and dot-com entrepreneurs too numerous to count.
At the peak of rush hour, some 18,000 cars zoom by the nearly 100 outdoor boards that vie to attract the eye of employees at other businesses, especially high-tech CEOs and workers."Suddenly, we've become the hip medium with all the hot eyeballs," says Michael Colbruno, VP-public affairs, Eller Media Co., Oakland, Calif., which owns the boards.
These outdoor boards tout everything from E*Trade to Linux, Ditech to Yahoo!,
WebVan to BlueDot.com. But if you're hoping for a board, you're already too late. Most are locked up in long-term contracts. "Advertisers come in with six-year contracts in hand," Colbruno says. "And if they can't get 101, they're buying up Highway 880 on the other side of the [San Francisco-Oakland] Bay Bridge."
There's been a rush on highway maps as well, Colbruno notes, with companies performing sophisticated traffic studies to determine, for instance, which routes most workers of Apple or Cisco take. "They're now looking at surface roads and side streets, anything that will place them in front of their exact high-tech business target."
Eller Media declines to cite rates for the boards, but industry executives say pricing per board ranges from $25,000 to $80,000, depending, of course, on location, location, location.