Friday, April 29, 2005

Redesigns for photographer site, finance pub

If my memory serves me correctly, back when I was at in the early days of the Web, we did our redesigns on Sundays. Since that was the day we had the fewest visitors, we had a cushion should something go wrong, and we could get things fixed by Monday morning.
Perhaps relaunching a site nowadays isn't as risky.
Because in the middle of the business day yesterday, VNU Business announced it had redesigned PDNOnline, a Web publication for professional photographers and buyers. I like the new look -- it's crisp and clean and plays up the photos. Take a look.
After you're done with that site, see if you can find a copy of this week's issue of "The Deal," the B2B publication that serves the mergers and acquisitions world. The paid-subscription weekly has changed its look and moved its columns to the front of the publication.

Covering trade shows with blogs

I've written here before about the plan by Primedia Business to use blogs to cover trade shows, a sort of new-media version of the trade show dailies of old. The project is going nicely, according to this story in Folio.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Journalism students as B2B competitors

I've written here recently about the competitive threat to traditional B2B publishers posed by both readers and staff. In an era when Web publishing means that everyone can buy ink by the barrel, the barriers to entry have disappeared. Any source, any reporter, any person with enough knowledge about the industry you cover is now in a position to cut your market share.
Now this isn't exactly what I was talking about...but it's worth a look.
Students at New York University's journalism program are being asked to cover business news by blogging. There are beats in public relations, finance, health care and other industries.
None of what I've seen there is extraordinarily interesting, but that's not the point.
Rather, I would urge folks in traditional B2B publishing to consider the ease with which these students have become new B2B publishers.
For more information on the project, check out this article by a teacher at NYU, Adam Penenberg.

tags: , , , , , conversational media, ,

Chicago B2B art war

Who says there's nothing exciting about B2B? Take a look at this story about a feud between Pfingsten Publishing, owner of "Art Business News" and a rival trade show producer in Chicago.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Poor circulation

I try to avoid being snide in this blog. I don't like the jaded tone that I find in much of journalism. And if there is a shortcoming in the blogsphere, it is that this medium seems even more enchanted than the rest of the press with wise-ass cynicism.
So I hope this post doesn't come across as obnoxious.
I've received two invitations this week to the Xtreme Circulation conference sponsored by Circulation Management magazine. And both of them were addressed incorrectly. One was sent to Paul Conley, Editor, Bloomberg. That's an understandable mistake. I was once an editor at Bloomberg News. But the second was sent to Circulation Director, Bloomberg -- a title I have never held.
This sort of thing cannot be good for the Circulation Management brand. These are the guys who are supposed to be the experts on list management and related issues. But their own mailing list has at least one duplicate. And it leaves me wondering if CM has any Bloomberg circulation folks on their list.
Regardless, you may want to check out the conference on June 16-17 in New York City. A number of B2B bigwigs will be speaking, including circulation gurus for Reed Business, CMP Media and the company with the coolest name in the industry -- Blood-Horse Publishing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The buying and selling craze in B2B

Yesterday's post about the pending sale of my former employer, Primedia Business, generated a fair amount of feedback. Much of it from old friends, comrades, enemies and a few folks I don't quite remember from my time at that company. And I'd describe much of that feedback as a sort of gleeful, vengeful fury.
I guess I was right when I wrote that there are still plenty of "folks left who are still angry" about what went wrong.
Maybe the sale of Primedia Business will let all of us put the past behind us.
Besides, as my fellow B2B blogger David Shaw points out, there are plenty of B2B conglomerates that suffer from the same problems, for the same reasons, as Primedia Business.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Primedia Business for sale

Primedia Business is for sale. That's no surprise to anyone who has watched the B2B publishing unit languish all these years under the staggering debt and staggeringly bad decisions of parent company Primedia. It's certainly no surprise to me. Back when I was vice president of online content at Primedia Business, I predicted almost every day that the unit would be sold. (But that was, perhaps, just wishful thinking. I'd spent too many boring meetings in Primedia's executive dining room, wasted too many days trying to track down high-ranking bigwigs with drinking problems who frequented the bars near corporate headquarters, and listened to far too many imbeciles tell me their theories on journalism.)
So who will buy the B2B giant once known as Intertec?
The obvious choice is Ascend Media, run by former Primedia executive Cam Bishop. That would be the outcome most likely to have folks jumping for joy back in Kansas. Ascend is right down the street from Primedia Business's offices in Johnson County. And there are plenty of Intertec folks left who are still angry over the disrespect they were given by the pretentious New Yorkers who bought the company. I doubt there's a soul in Primedia Business who thought it was good idea when Primedia CEO Tom Rogers decided to let Tim Andrews, and not Cam Bishop, run the B2B unit.
Another former Primedia executive who may buy Primedia Business is Charles McCurdy. But I'll put my money on Cam.
Nonetheless, rather than think about what is next, today is probably a day to contemplate what long last...happened. Now that Tom and Tim are long gone...and much of Intertec has been sold off or closed seems Primedia has decided it's time to end the whole bloody mess.

Billboard gets a facelift

VNU's Billboard magazine is one of those strange breeds in the magazine world. It's clearly a B2B property. But it also has a substantial B2C slant. And Billboard, like similar B2BandC publications such as The Hollywood Reporter or Trains, is available on many newsstands.
Perhaps that's why changes at Billboard are deemed important enough by the folks at the New York Times to merit a feature story.
But don't look to the Times to mention what I find to be the most interesting development at Billboard -- the launch of a B2BandC blog about iPods.

Folio moves to controlled circulation

I just got an email from Red7Media, the folks who recently bought Folio magazine from Primedia. And Red7Media says it is shifting Folio to a controlled-circulation model. I followed the link in the email and renewed my subscription to this bible of the magazine world. Check your email in-box and do the same. If you believe the "Act Now!" tone of the email, then time is short. "...we plan to hold the rate base to its current approximate 9,000 subscribers, we are encouraging our present subscribers to sign up immediately," Red7Media says. "Once the 9,000 is achieved, additional requests will be wait listed."

Friday, April 22, 2005

'Stand alone' journalism and the trade press

There's a fascinating discussion on Jay Rosen's Pressthink blog about Chris Nolan's concept of "stand alone" journalism. In brief, Nolan predicts a rise of high-quality journalists who work without the support of traditional publishers. Blogging software, Nolan says, gives journalists their own means of production, freeing them from the need to sell work through a middleman. That has the potential to create a new subset of the press -- journalists without employers.
I agree that people like Andrew Sullivan can make a living selling general interest news to a general population. But I'll predict here that these new "stand alone" journalists are most likely to come from the specialized business press, where customers will pay high rates for quality information. Trade journalism is already filled with folks such as Ralph Wilson and Richard Brock, who make money publishing specialized B2B newsletters.
I've said here before that traditional B2B publishers need to be aware of the competitive threat posed by their readers. Thousands of people in the B2B audience already have the tools to launch a competitive product -- expertise, sources and publishing software.
Traditional B2B publishers also face a "stand alone" threat from their own editors and reporters. The Web and blogging makes it much easier for someone to strike out on his own, using the sources he met while working for a trade publication, and cashing in on his own reputation as an expert. If you're a trade publisher, look across your newsroom now at that guy. You know the one. He's been there for 20 years. Before that he worked for your competitor. He knows everyone and everyone knows him. He speaks at trade shows, gets all the story tips. He has become, in a very real sense, synonymous with your brand. And ask yourself: what would happen if he left to start his own business?

Another buy by another former Primedia exec

Sometimes it seems that the entire magazine-publishing industry is being bought up by the former executives of my former employer. Now Apprise Media, run by ex-president of Primedia Charles McCurdy, has agreed to purchase Canon Communications. The acquisition of the publisher of such medical-manufacturing titles as "Plastics Machinery and Auxiliaries" is Apprise's first move into B2B.
I send my "good luck" wishes to McCurdy, the guys at Red 7 Media, the team at Ascend Communications and all the rest of the Primedia exiles.
Primedia, on the other hand, is undergoing a "major philosophical shift" and turning its back on acquisitions.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

B2B publisher Advanstar makes B2C buy

B2B publisher Advanstar continues its acquisition frenzy. The New York-based parent of "License," "American Salon" and 74 other B2B magazines bought a business-to-consumer property that ties in with some of its business-to-business operations.
Advanstar has purchased, a Web site for off-road motorsport enthusiasts, from Rubicon Media. The idea, it seems, is to flesh out Advanstar's off-road group. That unit, which launched last year, contains trade publication "Off-Road Retailer" as well as a consumer mag and a trade show.
As a general rule, I'm a little leery of publishers who dabble in both trade and consumer press. That's what Primedia, one of my old employers, did. Primedia would buy almost anything: gobbling up Intertec B2B magazines,, auction sites, Bacon's and "Teddy Bear and Friends" magazine. And I thought it was a disaster.
But Advanstar seems to be approaching this with a little more sense by choosing B2C properties that are related to its B2B holdings.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Further reorganization at Vance Publishing

One of my former employers, Vance Publishing, has completed the second stage of a companywide reorganization. Vance has merged its Decor and Industrial divisions into a new unit known as the Interiors group, which will house such magazines as "Furniture Style" and "Residential Lighting."
I've blogged here before about Vance's consolidation of its agricultural properties into a new unit based in Lenexa, Kan. This new announcement would seem to lend credence to my theory that Vance is planning on selling part of the company. And as I've said before, I'm betting that Kansas-based Ascend makes an offer for the Lenexa properties soon.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Help with your magazine launch

If you're one of those folks with dreams of launching your own trade magazine, there's a new Web site that claims to have the information you'll need. is an online resource for entrepreneurs with visions of earning wealth from publishing. The site, complete with chatboards for sharing ideas, is the brainchild of InfoSwell, a California-based company that designs Web sites for magazines.
Magazinelaunch is also a place for "leading vendors and consultants" to connect with professionals and entrepreneurs. There are also opportunities with the site for writers who wish to freelance articles about the magazine business.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Farm Journal buys agricultural TV program

Farm Journal Media, which has been in the B2B publishing business for 128 years, has purchased "U.S. Farm Report -- Town and County Living," the country's oldest agricultural television show, from Tribune Co. The 60-minute, weekly program features news, weather and rural-lifestyle feature segments.
Farm Journal already has agricultural-TV offerings -- "AgDay" and "WeekEnd Marketplace," which air on broadcast stations across the country. "U.S. Farm Report" has carriage deals with the 26 local stations owned by Tribune and its WGN superstation. Those deals will continue on after the sale, making Farm Journal's TV offerings available to almost every rural home in America.
This is a deal that's likely to be looked on favorably by everyone except for DTN, the other giant of agricultural B2B multimedia.

More on Variety layoff(s)

An anonymous reader of this blog wrote to ask for further details about the changes at Variety magazine's website. I reported last week that Variety had laid off "about a half-dozen employees." But I was called to task by's Alex Romanelli, who wrote to say that only "one person" had been laid off. But in that email Alex also said "Any freelance work required to produce that content will first be offered to those affected by the recent layoffs." And the use of the plural "layoffs" implied that more than one person was out of work, according to Anonymous.
I asked for a clarification and received another email from Alex. Here's what it said: "Reed Business only employed one staff person for the broadband projects. He was laid off. Other people were utilized on a freelance basis, mostly for actual video shoots (sound, lighting, camera etc) as required." These freelancers, Alex said, "will soon no longer have scheduled work, but all will remain our first choices for the upcoming projects that are lined up."
So it sounds to me that one full-time guy is out of work, and some freelancers will be looking for new assignments. Thanks to Anonymous for asking the question. Thanks to Alex for answering it.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Will Ascend buy Vance?

Folio magazine points out that two of the three B2B publishers owned by Veronis Suhler Stevenson are now for sale. That must leave the folks at Access Intelligence -- the only VSS property in the U.S. that's not on the auction block-- wondering when someone will hang a "For Sale" sign around their neck.
If this stuff interests you, you may want to attend American Business Media's Spring Meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. Cam Bishop, president and CEO of Ascend Media, is on a panel where the topic is "The Merger & Acquisition Front: How aggressive should we be?" Cam has been doing a lot of acquiring of late, and I suppose it's possible he has his eye on something from VSS.
But if you attend the meeting, ask him about my theory that Ascend will soon buy the food publications of Vance Publishing, which have their offices right down the road from Ascend in Johnson County, Kan.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I was once senior writer at Vance. And I was once vice president for online content at Primedia Business, where Cam Bishop once ran all B2B operations.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

More on Primedia blogs

Prescott Shibles, the smartest guy who ever worked for me, sent an email with more details about Primedia's new blogs. Prescott oversees the new media unit at Primedia Business these days, and he's justifiably proud that the new blogs have already lined up advertising support.
Here's what he has to say about Millimeter's new blog for the National Association of Broadcasters convention.
"It's taking the old "tradeshow daily" and increasing the frequency from once a day to several times an hour. We're hopeful that this can help our editors cover content directly from their notes in an abbreviated format before they go back to their office and work on articles for the next magazine issue. This will improve the coverage, as eds may not have the time to cover everything in the more polished detailed manner that traditional journalism dictates."
Now that's how to take advantage of the instant-publishing capabilities and short-form content style of a blog.
To review, a number of B2B publishers have found ways to expand editorial coverage through blogs. Among the most interesting techniques: using a blog to cover a "micro" beat that can't justify full coverage, i.e. Variety's Bags and Boards and Billboard's PostPlay. Now Primedia is taking the "tradeshow daily" idea and modernizing it. (As an aside, the king of the "tradeshow daily" was Atwood Publishing, which is now owned by Ascend Media. Ascend continues to do events publishing. But as far as I know, Ascend hasn't tried blogging a tradeshow.)
Prescott also points out that Primedia Business has some other blog projects, including this one, which are about to come in-house.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Primedia B2B magazines try blogging

Back when I was vice president for online content at Primedia Business, I remember having an argument with another executive about online links. This guy didn't want the editors of our sites to link to other Web pages without written permission from those sites.
It seems funny now that someone would so misunderstand the very nature of the Web.
But it looks to me as if things haven't changed much at Primedia Business. Some Primedia properties have launched blogs -- a move I applaud (Thanks to RexBlog for pointing out the new properites.) But in at least one case, Primedia is misunderstanding how journalists should approach blogs.
Check out this "blog" from the editor of VideoSystems, for instance, which seems unaware of any information that it doesn't publish itself. There's a similar problem with the Chief Marketer email newsletter, which links only to Primedia sites (Note: I find this less offensive, if no less shortsighted. A newsletter does not imply that it seeks its information outside, whereas a blog by its very nature links to other sources.)
On the other hand, look at the special blog that Millimeter is planning for an upcoming trade show. I love the instant-analysis that blogging can provide, and a trade show is the perfect place to show off that capability. Here's hoping the Millimeter editorial staff does the sort of high-caliber work I expect of them.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Participatory journalism and B2B

It seems the B2C press has really begun to catch on to the potential of participatory journalism. But the B2B press, I fear, is still dragging its feet. I've said here before that I view bloggers and other citizen journalists as our audience more than as our competitors. Certainly the Greensboro News & Record understands that, and now welcomes the give-and-take of participatory journalism. Others in the B2C press are now compensating their citizen journalists.
But when I talk to folks in trade journalism about the need to move away from lecture mode and embrace conversation, I still find considerable hostility about bloggers, podcasters, etc.
So maybe I should put more emphasis on the competitive threat of the citizen journalists. Perhaps that will get more folks to pay attention.
By its very nature, the B2B press caters to a specialized audience of experts. The reader of your typical trade magazine tends to know an enormous amount about the subject at hand. That gives him a nearly instant credibility should he choose to start a blog and compete against you. Trade associations understand this. Large numbers of them have taken advantage of the publishing ease offered by the Internet to share information with their members. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I've worked with a number of trade association email newsletters published through SmartBrief.)
Smart trade magazines are taking action. Broadcasting & Cable has a blog that's open to readers. Variety has a number of blogs that cover niche areas.
How will your publication address the changes in the media world?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Firefox project for a slow day

If there's a slow day in B2B journalism, it's usually a Friday. Lots of weekly publications head to the printer on Thursday nights so that readers will have the product on their desks come Monday.
If today is a slow day for you, here's something to do.
Take a look at this article on the remarkable growth of the Firefox browser. (FULL DISCLOSURE: Back when I was a technology editor at Bloomberg News, I worked with the reporter on this story, Dina Bass.) Then check to make sure that your B2B website works well in Firefox.
MTV launched a new video service yesterday that doesn't support Firefox, and tech-savvy folks aren't pleased.

OhmyNews goes international

OhmyNews, the citizen journalism project based in South Korea, is going international. There's been an English-language version of OhmyNews for quite some time now. And I've been urging journalism students and others to get involved. Now that process is much easier.
Take a look.
It seems to me that the opportunites here are limitless. OhmyNews is growing at a remarkable rate. Yet prestigious beats in business, sports, etc. are wide open.
Back when I was starting out as a journalist, I'd have killed for a chance like that.

More on Variety

Alex Romanelli, editor of, wrote to say that my post yesterday reporting that Variety had "laid off about a half-dozen employees who worked on video and sound production for the B2B magazine's website" was incorrect. Only one person lost his job, according to Romanelli.
Here's some of the email:
"Reed Business Information, Variety's parent company, laid off one person as a result of shuttering regular production of its broadband initiative.
We'd appreciate the correction.
Sorry that you found "some pleasure" in someone losing their job. To provide some info, we will continue to produce video content on an editorially specific basis, ie no more weekly production but we continue to cover certain events and/or special reports. Any freelance work required to
produce that content will first be offered to those affected by the recent layoffs."

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Layoffs at Variety

A source tells me that Variety has laid off about a half-dozen employees who worked on video and sound production for the B2B magazine's website.
Regular readers of this blog know that Variety is my least favorite B2B site because of its cluttered design, strange taxonomy, etc. And the video section, called Variety Vision, tends to crash my browser as often as it actually plays video.
I'm always sad to see someone lose their job, and I hope that Reed Business has been as kind as is possible during this process. But I'll admit to finding some pleasure in this news. Maybe now someone will do some serious thinking about that site.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Podcasts for B2B

I'm not convinced that podcasting has much of a business future. I certainly don't see it as a major threat to radio (satellite radio, however, may someday deliver the death blow.) I tend to think podcasting's future is more likely to be as a form of personal communication, which puts me in about the same camp as Rex of Rexblog. At the same time, I've been adamant when speaking with journalism students, insisting that they master this new medium as soon as possible. (Students -- especially broadcast communications students -- who can't do podcasts are one of my new pet peeves. I have the same blood-boiling reaction to people who don't write but say they have "always wanted to be a writer." Or to students who say they want to be journalists, but don't blog, work for ohmynews or participate in other citizen journalism ventures.)
I'm a little less adamant about podcasting when speaking with B2B publishers...but perhaps restraint is not appropriate.
I've noted an ever-growing number of business-related podcasts. Someone seems to think there is a market here. And even if podcasts cannot be a revenue driver for a B2B publication, podcasts may be another way to expand the brand, serve customers and add to news-gathering capabilities.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

More on custom publishing

I posted some of my concerns about custom publishing a little more than a week ago. And so far I haven't received any complaints from journalists who say they are pressured to write for such products.
I'm relieved.
Given that there may, in fact, be little for me to worry about, I read this piece about B2B custom pubs with little hand-wringing, hair-pulling or other forms of fretful behavior.

VNU discrimination lawsuit

Can this really be true? Can management at VNU's Billboard magazine be this paranoid? this silly? this out-of-touch? this racist?
Take a look at the story in today's New York Daily News that alleges Billboard executives were so worried about lawsuits that they got nervous when employees who were members of minority groups formed friendships.
There are more details here, courtesy of CourtTV.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Another reorganization for Primedia Business

Things are changing once again at one of my former employers, Primedia Business.
The B2B publisher will fold two existing magazines into one in a move that "Folio"magazine warns "runs the risk of opening up opportunities for niche competitors."
Primedia plans to combine "Catalog Age" and "Operations and Fulfillment" into something called "Multichannel Merchant."
Off the top of my head, this doesn't seem like the best idea.
First, I just hate the new name. It's too similar to Reed Business' Multichannel News. More importantly, the name is supposed to evoke the broad business of online and print catalogs, direct mail and telemarketing. But to me it seems sort of bland and unfocused.
Second, I'm always a little wary when a niche publication -- where success comes from having expertise in a small area -- decides to go broader.
I assume the rebranding is part of Primedia Business' larger effort to refocus its marketing publications as part of the Chief Marketer initiative. And I'm generally supportive of that move.
But I have to say I agree with "Folio" on this one. There's considerable risk here.

Friday, April 01, 2005

New boss at Vance Publishing

Vance Publishing -- home of such B2B publications as the Packer newspaper (where I was once senior writer) -- has named Peggy Walker president and chief operating officer.
The move may mark a turning point for Vance.
The family-run company has a tradition of home-growing its top executives. But Walker is an outsider. Most recently she was president and group publisher of the National Underwriter Co. Before that, she was an executive at Putnam Media.
Walker replaces Mike Ross -- a longtime Vance man who moved up through the magazine ranks. Ross replaced Jim Staudt, who started in the circulation department of the Packer. Most interestingly, Walker assumes the title that most insiders assumed would go to Bill O'Neil, who had been with the company since 1976. But O'Neil stepped down a few weeks ago. And people inside Vance tell me he left because he'd been taken out of the running for Ross' job.
As a general rule, one of my favorite things about small B2B publishers is the collegial, supportive environment in which workers can learn and grow. But there's a downside to any closed system: no new blood often means no new ideas.
Given the increasingly competitive nature of publishing in the Internet era, Vance's decision to look outside for inspiration may prove to be an inspired idea.