Can B2B magazine brands survive?

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lThe impact of digital on national and local papers dominates. The fate of B2B media has been all but ignored. So you can imagine my delight, after a week offline, to discover a real debate.

Well “delight” might be the wrong word here. Paul Conley, a US B2B magazine consultant, has clinically assessed the likely survival of the B2B media sector in the US. It ain’t pretty. Neither a debt-laden, traditional print sector rushing to go online nor more recent, web-only companies can get it right. Advertising revenues decline. Both sides lord it over each other. Rory Brown, a former MD of Incisive Marketing Division, has joined the debate. He argues that B2B companies need to recognise and embrace niches within business sectors. Then use web hosted apps to service readers. I do both an injustice. Read them.  

I recognise the problems. But here’s my countercyclical take on it.

  1. The mood among traditional B2B journalists has swung dramatically. The conversation is no longer “why digital” but rather “shall we use a corporate Twitter address and use DM to communicate. Oh, and let’s feed it through the company Wiki”.
  2. B2B editors are already brilliant networkers so well placed to be what Clay Shirky, among others, would call ambassadors between small world networks. Encourage them and you draw the rest in.
  3. The smaller, monthlies are already such niche titles that their new digital footprints translate smoothly into online communities.
  4. Editors’ specialist knowledge is extremely effective when they go out to comment on stories in the national press or other blogs.
  5. Even the names of the titles, particularly some of the smaller ones, help since they often mirror key search phrases – Service Management, Security Management, Publican, Building.
  6. Web-hosted, social media apps have brought an excitement to editorial teams and provided many of the former prohibitively expensive solutions  for their sites.
  7. A successful B2B titles has not been a stand-alone brand since the mid-1990s. Conferences, awards, exhibitions, roundtables, all extensions to a magazine’s brand sit far more comfortably within digital than endless supplements.
  8. Our exhibitions are now spawning high quality conferences. They might not look like journalism but by God they feel like it when you are live blogging them.
  9. Content will remain a priority but digital allows former print titles to withdraw from some areas – why compete on data when others do it better?
  10. Digital revenues might be 5-10 per cent on average. But that figure will rise quickly.
  11. Clients know they must move their marketing online. They, like the media, are just struggling with the cultural changes necessary.
  12. B2B sales teams have a relationship with clients that allows them to mentor them as they learn about digital together.
  13. Sales teams are absolutely up for it.
  14. Not all B2B companies are debt-laden. United Business Media (my company) has money in the bank following sales of the Express newspapers and shares in C4 and C5 TV channels over the last decade.
  15. And finally, the return of humour. Adam Tinworth, RBI’s blog maestro on the current downturn: “I’ve just registered fromb2btob&b in preparation for the implosion of the industry and my inevitable move from B2B to running a B&B in Devon…”

What do you think. Can you add to this list?

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Are bloggers ready for the competition from the arrival of so many former, print journalists?

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moreimmigrants3Do bloggers realise quite what is about to hit them? 

Following wave after wave of redundancies on US and UK  newspapers and a marked shift to web-only or web-dominant on those titles that survive, hundreds of traditional journalists are about to flood the bloggers hallowed grounds. Once there, journalists will kick off blogs, competing for stories, attention and readers, rubbing up against exactly the group they have sometimes blames for much of traditional journalism’s malaise.

Are bloggers, and to be honest many New Media journalists, ready for this new wave of economic migrants? Will bloggers need to raise their game? Is the world big enough for both of them?

Bloggers will spot the newcomers easily at first. They will continue to operate in the same familiar and trusted ways that they are used to in print, presuming that those ways need only be transfered to the web. So notice how many of the blogs will be “broadcast” at first, written as if they are newspaper columns and expecting readers to come to them.

Are bloggers ready for what comes next, however? Bloggers have broken some great stories over the years but a new wave of professional journalists oozing great contacts and forced to use their blogs to break stories are going to be tough new competition. Are bloggers going to be just a little annoyed that the newcomers, with their strong links back to what remains of traditional media, will have their postings picked up and linked to major websites far quicker than theirs? Will the years of training to write quick, factually correct and legal articles translate into a new standard of accuracy and attribution which will fundamentally alter the content of blogs?

But could there be a different scenario? Could the new wave of people into New Media raise everyone’s game? Could it not bring new names to the fore, new ideas, new ways of creating blogs? After all, some of the greatest bloggers today started out as print journalists, Jeff Jarvis and Craig Stolz for example. WIll not the newcomers morph into New Media stars just as effortlessly?

The constant drip, drip, drip of bad news about print media has made us all think of the negative results of these seismic changes. The arrival of these journalists will bring a little wounded pride to those bloggers who have been toiling for years.  But, for any blogger of worth, the newcomers bring nothing but good.

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Jarvis v Rosenbaum – latest on the “death-of-journalism” spat rocking the US

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For those of you familiar with Jeff Jarvis’ elegant weekly column in the Guardian or even more erudite blog Buzzmachine,you may already have heard of the spat “between digital news evangelist Jeff Jarvis and veteran print author Ron Rosenbaum” as Craig Stolz puts it. If you need to catch up with the latest twists and turns, Stolz brings all the pieces together with a posting yesterday.

There is one further twist to the tale, a posting by Simon Owens in his blog Bloggasm headlined “Make Jeff Jarvis earn his street cred”. What follows is an exchange of comments where Jarvis argues for his right to speak for new media despite a traditional newspaper background. Owens is no insubstantial blogger himself but he must have been delighted by the exchange coming to his blog despite his tone of cynicism. I have seen Jarvis so involved in the conversation before. He normally leads the digisphere.

I am also not quite sure why Jarvis made such an effort. Owens’ argument is that Jarvis had not earnt his digital “street cred” like Digg’s Kevin Rose or Google’s Sergey Brin. But that confuses the means with the media – you don’t need to be able to build the kit to use it. Surely what new media has shown us again and again is that those journalists who were talented and important in the old world, like Jarvis, are just as good and rightly influential in the new. 

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A list of bloggers who focus on B2B media

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You can meet everyone in the blogosphere: leading social media marketers such as Jeremiah Owyang; top journalism teachers such as Jay Rosen and creative programmers such as Yongfook. But try and find a decent group of bloggers posting about Business-to-Business media and you will be disappointed.

First, there are not that many (one on my list isn’t actually a blogger yet) and, second, why are so many B2B media blogs anonymous – of which I do not approve. You just do not find such high levels of anonymity in other parts of journalism so why B2B media?

UPDATED AND REVISED: 31 January 2009

  1. Paul Conley –  As a US-based consultant to B2B media, Conley is a witness to the rapid changes taking place in the sector. I just wish he would write more.
  2. Adam Tinworth- RBI’s blogging maestro takes you on a great ride through digital with One Man and His Blog. Originator of the word “Hackopalypse”.
  3. Rory Brown - Incisive Marketing Division’s former MD is a welcome addition to the B2B pool of bloggers.
  4. Neil Thackray - Reed, the Miller Freeman, then CEO of Quantum and finally Nexus. What more could you want from a B2B blogger.
  5. Asia Business Media – Paul Woodward of Business Strategies Group in Hong Kong.
  6. ASPBE National Blog – blogroll of the American Society of Business Publication Editors.
  7. Harmeek Singh- Publisher based in India and obviously someone who carefully reads and conscientiously comments on blogs. But Singh does not appear to have his own blog – he should!
  8. Business Media Blog - well written blog focusing on US B2B media but drawing on UK media but an anonymous blog. Not to be confused with…
  9. Business Media- a blog focusing on UK B2B. Anonymous.
  10. illiterato - A B2B journalist who covers general business news but can comment really well on B2B media – and should do more of it! Anonymous.
  11. Private Frazer’s Doomed Magazines – named after the hilarious Dad’s Army character, Private Fraser maps the decline of the magazine sector. Anonymous.

So here’s my list. Have you got any to suggestions?

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Indefatigable digital identity of Editor 2.0

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We encouraged them. We cajoled them. And, if necessary, pushed them. Editors of traditional B2B media have had a tough time trying to manage the tricky task of maintaining quality on their print product while constantly expanding the online offering. I should know having been editor of three titles over 14 years.

 

But just when they thought the extent of the digital revolution had become clear, another great change hove into sight. So if they were focused on the flow of news stories for years, then tried to get their head around social networking and user generated content more recently, along comes the birth of a new journalism that is collaborative, open, linked-up and non-precious – the indefatigable digital identity of the editor. Shall we call it Editor 3.O?

 

Here is my guide, stage by stage

EDITOR 1.O (say 1999-2005)

Actually a daily flow of news is a real achievement. But the web gives a sense of space not often felt in print. So if you could only have six sections in your mag’, why not 28 on your website?

Most likely to say “My readers are so backwards, they never even look at the web”

Least likely to say “I’ve kept my best stories for the web”

Employs A web editor

EDITOR 2.O (say 2006-2008)

Comments on stories, then pictures of events, it is not much of a leap into pictures and copy by readers. But the real step is into social networking which has been taken up by very few B2Bs, the rare exception being TTG Live with Face of Travel (readers voting on each other) and YourSpace.

Most likely to say “Look at that horrible hair”

Least likely to say “I really respect the intellect and quality of analysis of that guy who regularly comments”

Employs A community editor

EDITOR 3.O (say 2008….)

Editor is a brand leader. Blogosphere provides indefatigable digital identity with links in and out to several organisations. No one worries anymore that traffic will be lost. News is the specialism of Editor 3.O, distributed by Google or AP (see Jeff Jarvis’ Buzzmachine plus comments) shared with other aggregators or even competitors. I once asked whether a digital business needs a website. Does Editor 3.O or its journalists need a website either?

Most likely to say “Let’s add our contribution to that breaking news story”

Least likely to say “I am removing my competitor from my blog roll”

Employs Google, AP, Technorati, friendfeed