When Did B-to-B Publishing Get So Confusing?
At ABM meeting, leadership struggle to redefine their industry.
ABM held its annual meeting this week in Charleston, South Carolina. Many of the familiar faces were there.
Also familiar were some ‚Äúlegacy‚ÄĚ issues that kept cropping up throughout the program. Issues that I hadn‚Äôt heard discussed in some time. For all of the innovation we continually speak and write about, there are still some persistent, fundamental problems that are fouling up the aerodynamics. And, no, I don‚Äôt just mean the lack of capital.
During the program I was periodically surprised to hear publishing leadership getting hung up with ‚Äúmissionary selling‚ÄĚ; or criticized for merely duplicating content across platforms; or wondering how, or whether, they should supplement their ranks with skill-specific expertise from outside the industry.
That‚Äôs where the familiarities ended, however. As we‚Äôre all moving at light speed to keep up with equally quick market dynamics, these old issues are simply emerging in a different context. B-to-b publishing in the last few years has changed dramatically, and attendees at the event were candid about their confusion.
Warren Bimblick, Penton Media‚Äôs senior vice president of strategy and business development, admitted that audience development has become ‚Äúthe most difficult thing for us as a company to get right.‚ÄĚ And he‚Äôs right. Metrics and campaign accountability have become an all-consuming issue for marketers asking for lead-generation and other performance-based programs. Data is the new currency. Publishers everywhere are still struggling to define and corral the ways in which audience interacts with each platform‚ÄĒeven after we‚Äôve long jumped on the revenue diversification bandwagon.
Labeling the Transformation
In his opening remarks, after having the gavel officially passed to him from past board chair and Vance CEO Peggy Walker, Charlie McCurdy was uncharacteristically bemused over b-to-b media‚Äôs state of transformation. ‚ÄúWe don‚Äôt even have a vocabulary for our business anymore,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre not building our business around brands anymore in any sense of the word, we‚Äôre building it around customer insights. There‚Äôs no one word to describe what we produce. What do we call this?‚ÄĚ
McCurdy added that it‚Äôs equally difficult to define an audience. ‚ÄúIf they‚Äôre not ‚Äėaudiences‚Äô anymore, what are they? ‚ÄėUsers‚Äô? That sounds like a methadone clinic.‚ÄĚ
Of course, some of this could still be the residual, dizzying effects of having our clocks cleaned during the last two years. I was talking with one attendee and we both agreed that the deathly pall evident at previous shows had mostly dissipated and was replaced with a sense of general befuddlement.
Yet even publishers who have been considered ‚Äúcanaries in the coal mine‚ÄĚ and have led the charge in dramatically shifting their revenue sources are struggling to choose the right path. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre wrestling with ‚Äėso, now you‚Äôre digital, so what?‚Äô‚ÄĚ said Ziff Davis Enterprise CEO Steve Weitzner. ‚ÄúWhat happens next?‚ÄĚ
-- Bill Mickey is editor of Folio:. Follow him on Twitter: @billmickey
Post Comment / Discuss This Blog - Info/Rules