Neil Thackray’s Business Media Blog

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The Future for B2B May Not Be In Content

A study by Outsell (only available to subscribers) surfaces one of the underlying systemic issues affecting business media companies.  They asked business to business marketeers in the USA what they were doing with the money they were no longer spending on trade press advertising.  In summary the money went;

  • 29% will be spent on the company’s own web site
  • 21% will be spent on paid search and search engine advertising
  • 17% will be spent on events
  • 15% will be spent on other online community or special interest sites

Back in the days of Web 1.0 we used to talk a lot about the opportunities that arose from disintermediation.  Now it appears that it is the business media companies  themselves that are being disintermediated by their own customers. 

One of the biggest costs of trading as a magazine publisher is distribution.  Building a circualtion and then providing access to it for advertisers was the essence of the profit model.  In the digital world, distribution is pretty cheap and marketeers are discovering that they can build traffic on their sites directly without relying on business media publishers.

The implications of this are clear.  If we take the Outsell numbers at face value, even if we succeed with our online content models we might only expect to win back 15% of the money we are losing from print.  That won’t support the costs of a comprehensive content model.  If we are to win our full share of the digital cake we are going to have to think differently about the business we are in. 

Last week I spoke on a panel at the E Publishing Innovation Conference and I reminded the delegates of Michael Wolffs book from the early days of the Internet, Burn Rate.  In this highly entertaining book Wolff describes his adventures in raising money for start up companie in the febrile world of Silicon Valley.  At the end of the book, he declares a worry.  What, he postulates, if it turns out that the Internet revolution is not about media at all?

It turns out that he may have been right.  Although content and media may be part of the solution for business media companies it should not be at the centre of strategy development.  What we need to do is examine closely what our customers (the companies we used to call advertisers) are doing with their spend and help them to do it better.  As I have argued before, nobody wants to buy advertising next to content, what marketeers really want is tools that help them sell more stuff.  That certainly means we are in the lead  generation business.  We might also need  to be in the business of providing widgets and applications  and marketing services that improve the effciency of marketeers own websites.  Of course content is part of what we do, but if we think it is the purpose of what we do, our revenues from “advertisers” are going to be modest.

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May 28, 2009 Posted by | Advertising Sales, business media strategy | , , | 1 Comment