The Path to Change
If economics is a series of micro decisions that create a macro trend, then 2006 will go down as the year the fundamental economics changed forever in b-to-b media.
Last year, according to our just released 2007 B-to-B CEO Survey, larger-company CEOs overwhelmingly said their fastest growing revenue stream was e-media. The year before, print and online were about even, and the year before that, print was dominant: That is, far more CEOs who responded to the 2005 survey said print was their fastest-growing stream in 2004.
Check out the charts on pages 36 and 37 of the May 2007 issue of Folio Magazine. It’s stunning, really, even when you factor in the fact that companies of less than $5 million lag the larger companies in this transformation.
At Folio:, where we both report on this change and live it every day, we’ve covered this ground anecdotally in the past. But this month’s survey is the first empirical look at the shift from print to online. More and more I hear b-to-b executives who once would have described themselves as print publishers now describe themselves as digital publishers with a print presence if marketers want to go that way as well. Again, the pace of change here is what’s been most staggering.
Nowhere is the pace of change as rapid as in the tech space, where advertisers increasingly are not looking at print. Exhibit A is Ziff Davis Media, this month’s cover story, which has moved from minimal e-media revenue in 2001 to nearly half in 2006. In some ways, at least in the vision communicated by its management team, Ziff possesses the characteristics of the new breed of b-to-b media company: Shifting rapidly into digital with print as a peripheral, ﾑhas-to-prove-itself’ brand extension.
This is true of IDG and CMP as well, which are engaged in fierce competition with online-only publishers and bloggers. But Ziff is especially interesting because it’s saddled with a supremely challenged balance sheet and is now in the process of selling itself;as a single unit or more likely, in parts. It’s ironic that this company, with its famous heritage and so different now from what it was in 2000;and so intensely focused on a digital future;very possibly may not exist in six or seven months.