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Yes, We’re at a Tipping Point—Now What?

At Top Management, ‘Financial Trend Report’ data already old news.


Vanessa Voltolina By Vanessa Voltolina
11/18/2008 -10:34 AM






CHICAGO—During a day one session at American Business Media’s Top Management Meeting  here, the Jordan, Edmiston Group presented the key findings from the ABM Financial Trend Report, 2005-2007. The report—which showed revenue from all branded sources as relatively flat and print as 84 percent of average b-to-b publications’ income in 2007—already felt like old news.

But noteworthy discussion did eventually come when the moderator, BtoB/Media Business editor Ellis Booker, asked panelists if once the economy straightened itself out, whether the world would be changed permanently. And by world, he was referring to the possibility of print numbers even again looking like they did in the 2005-2007 report. Or are we, he asked, at a tipping point?

Of course, a general, open-ended question is dangerous in a setting like this, as it encourages the kind of endless bloviating that makes people loathe business panels in general. But a quick, certain response came from both panelists: Yes.

Incisive Media’s CEO Bill Pollak said that his worry was that publishing had, in fact, reached a tipping point. The landscape has “changed for a typical advertiser,” he said. “I think the world will change after these 18 months, or however long it takes [for the recession to be over].” He predicts advertisers spending more on Google and direct response that they can get online—and less on print or even b-to-b Web sites. He also considers that ABM’s reported revenue mix—with 84 percent of average b-to-b publication revenue coming from print—to dramatically change in the coming months.

Greg Watt, president of Watt Publishing, ended the session with a significant (and deliberately open-ended) question for all publishers to ponder: What can we stop spending money on so that we start spending money on what will be important after the recession?

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