B2B magazines: the business of succeeding

In his opening address to the PPA Magazines Business Media conference this month, Incisive Media’s chief executive Tim Weller said business media is no longer the poor relation but the envy of most other areas of British media, admired by the City.

Business media broke the new ground of being platform agnostic in the way content was delivered some time ago, Weller added. What does this mean and what has been the driver of this new multiplatform approach?

B2B titles left standing after the fierce storm of the past few years have gone on to thrive. The trust, credulity and communities that have been associated with the long-standing print brands have acted as the foundation for brand extensions. These are delivering new revenue streams to the B2B publishers that have evolved into business media providers.

Companies such as CMPi have developed conferences and specific search tools for their community of GPs who have been the Pulse readership, RBI has created virtual tours of commercial property through EGi (Estates Gazette interactive) and Incisive Media’s own Accountancy Age now broadscast web-streamed TV from its own studios.

These strategies are working, attracting readers, event attendees and website users. Ad revenues are growing, and more recently these companies are achieving the holy grail of persuading their communities to pay for the valuable content.

The basic principle hasn’t changed – it’s still about connecting buyers and sellers in a relevant environment. It’s still about creating content and analysis that enables people to do their job better, outperform their competitors and inform their decision making. These business publishers realised very early on that survival and success is about delivering ‘the right’content across the various formats to their audience.

The role of the printed product in some sectors of business media may well change, but at the moment it’s still at the heart of these businesses and provides the heritage from which the future is being constructed.

The challenge for B2B publishers will be to their product fresh, adapting as their specific niche evolves and building the all important relationships with the advertisers and sponsors. This will need an almighty injection of talent – some raw, some established, and this is already proving to be one of the biggest concerns for the sector.

Training and education needs to discover the multiplatform approach. Editors will no longer hold the story as the scoop or for the front page next Thursday; sales people will need to adopt a portfolio approach and not just focus on traditional display advertising.

In the short term we can expect to see consumer magazine journalists looking to B2B publishing as the potential model of the future, and learning from their highly profitable cousins as they work out their own plans to reinvent their business models in a multimedia world.

Fay Delavault is communications and marketing director, PPA

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