Vertical Outlook 2006

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As the effects of the dot-com debacle recede, b-to-b publishers are gearing up for what's expected to be a banner year for digital media. Although print remains the heart of b-to-b publishers' portfolios, an increasing number of media companies from a variety of industries are creating programs designed to cater to their clients' online interests.

Take construction, for example. Niles Crum, publishing director of Reed Business Information's Building & Construction Group, said he expects a 60% increase in digital revenue this year. The massive growth will be fueled, in part, by the creation of individual Web sites this year for the six titles in the construction portfolio, which includes Professional Builder, Professional Remodeler and Building Design & Construction.

"It gives the reader a format they want and advertisers the ability to deliver an educational message in an environment they can control," Crum said, adding that online revenue for the group has been growing 10% to 15% the past few years. "It's all about the ROI. You can get that so much better online and have a much bigger impact."

Another sector expecting a good deal of change in online marketing is financial services. After a few tentative years, Wall Street is starting to ramp up its investment in online advertising. "The financial services industry has seen advertisers a little more hesitant to come online, but that's changed in the last six months with banks and trading platforms coming online as they see the competition doing it," said David Minkin, associate publisher of

The packaging and telecommunications sectors, faced with the challenges of automation and consolidation, respectively, are also boosting their online marketing investment. Joe Angel, VP-publisher of Packaging World, said he expects a 25% increase in online revenue, while Mark Hickey, publisher of Telephony, is anticipating double-digit growth online.

Despite expectations for a breakout year online, publishers still face many potential threats and challenges. These include the constant threat of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil and problems associated with integrating print and online ad sales staffs.

Also, with corporate executives scrutinizing investments, marketing outlays are sometimes lagging.

"Whether you're selling tea or cupcakes, marketing dollars are not rising as much as sales, which makes for flat marketing budgets," said Teri Mollison, group publisher for Penton's Manufacturing, Supply Chain and Metals Group. "We're trying to change the conversation to focus marketers on having a better dialogue with their customers and what they're trying to accomplish with their brands."

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