Monday, December 31, 2007

Out with the old; in with the new

Here it is New Year's Eve -- albeit several hours before the ball drops in Times Square about 25 blocks north of my office -- and I'm scrambling to finish off a few projects for 2007. It looks as if 2008 is going to be a very busy year for me. So I'm hoping to begin the year without any uncompleted tasks in my Franklin Planner.

But as I say good-bye to the old, I also want to say hello to the new.
Some new bloggers have emerged in the two worlds that I write about on this blog -- B2B publishing and journalism education. I'd urge you to add these new writers to your RSS feeds and help them join the conversation about online journalism.

First, the Cleveland Chapter of the American Society of Business Publication Editors has launched a blog. Take a look here. Cleveland joins a slew of other ASBPE chapters that are blogging about B2B journalism.
Second, check out Trade Pressed, a brand-new blog from "Sara," a trade press editor. I don't know Sara's last name. And I don't know where she works. Here's hoping that we learn more about her and her thoughts on the trade press in 2008.
Third, take a look at The Linchpen, a blog from Greg Linch, the managing editor of The Miami Hurricane student newspaper. I had the good fortune to meet Greg earlier this year. He's one of those rare young journalists who "gets it."

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Digging a fighting hole

Back when I was younger and even more attractive than I am today, I was a soldier.
And like other soldiers, I learned a set of skills that are sometimes difficult to transfer to the civilian world. I, for example, am a pretty good fighter with a bayonet. But my clients in the B2B world seldom have the need to employ me for my skills with edged weapons.
On the other hand, back in infantry training at Fort Benning, I learned to dig a fighting hole. And I think that will prove a valuable skill -- at least in the metaphorical sense -- in 2008.

A fighting hole, sometimes called a fox hole, is exactly what it sounds like. It's a hole in the ground from which a soldier fights.
But the key to a fighting hole is that it is a defensive position. It's the place where a soldier lives, fights and struggles to hold the line. Although it is possible to advance from a fighting hole, it is more of a place to resist an onslaught than to plan an attack.
And I've decided that it's time for B2B editors and publishers to build some fighting holes.

As the year draws to an end, I find myself worrying more and more about what next year will bring for our industry. As I mentioned a few days ago, "I'm worried that 2008 is going to be an awful year for B2B publishing."
Since I wrote that piece, I've spoken to a few more B2B folks. And nothing I'm hearing suggests that I'm wrong to be nervous.
So if I may continue this metaphor, let me say this, and let me say it my best drill sergeant voice: "Shut your damn mouths. Grab your god-damn entrenching tool and dig a god-damn hole."

When the new year begins, I'll post some of my thoughts on what a B2B fighting hole looks like. In the meantime, it's worth noting that some of the smarter folks in the industry are offering their suggestions on how to weather the coming dark times.
First, David Shaw says now is NOT the time to panic or overreact.
Second, Scott Karp suggests that now IS the time to go for broke in online ad sales.
Third, in an article in Folio magazine, 1105 Media's Neal Vitale says it's time to rethink staffing and accept that "you might find that you need more resources devoted to online content development."

On a related note, Folio has published its annual list of magazine predictions. And everyone and his brother has weighed in. (Full Disclosure: Folio was kind enough to ask for my predictions. In brief, I said that I expected weak revenue and a continuation of B2Bs' ethical woes. I also predict a surge in one of the key areas of my fighting-hole policy -- editorial outsourcing.)

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Joining (and re-joining) the conversation

If you're anything like me, you never grow tired of thinking about and talking about the world of journalism.
And for we obsessive types, there's now a new place to discuss one key area of of our world -- journalism education. Check out the new CICM member link, "where advisers, faculty and affiliate members and friends of the Center for Innovation in College Media can explore solutions to the challenges of the digital age."

Perhaps more exciting for obsessive B2B journalists, is the return to the blogging world of David Shaw. Welcome home, David!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Year of Living Unreasonably

I'm worried that 2008 is going to be an awful year for B2B publishing.
I don't have any data to back up this fear. What I do have is a sense that something is about to go wrong.

In the past few weeks I've spoken with a number of B2B editors, sales people and publishers. And each of them also seems to be worried. Certainly there is a widespread and justified concern that our print products will continue to face challenges. And certainly more of them will fold in 2008. But that is old news, and not particularly interesting. As my friend Rex said, "every year is a magazine shake-out year."

So what's different now?

It seems to me that the rise of online has led to unreasonable expectations. The lust of investors, the demands for growth, the need to justify ourselves to the people who control the purse strings are pushing us into a new era of preposterousness. Everywhere I go I meet people with revenue targets that seem delusional.

There's probably not another person in B2B publishing who has championed Web journalism more than I. But my love of new media is born of my love of all media. Online storytelling excites me. Just like other forms of storytelling do. The fact that new media has also made money pleases me, but it's not why I love it. Cash flow doesn't stir my soul.
But cash flow does stir many a soul in publishing. And in some cases, it warps them.

Here's what I see happening; here's why I'm worried about 2008:
1. Amid a credit crunch and suggestions of recession, online advertising is likely to contract. But no one in B2B seems to be revising their online growth numbers downward. Rather, the growth numbers I'm hearing are higher than in 2007.
2. When pressure for revenue growth builds, many folks in B2B behave badly.
3. The most exciting thing about new media has been the growth of new media. Every established publisher faced more online competitors in 2007 than in 2006. I expect that will continue.
4. The business model currently in fashion in B2B publishing isn't built to withstand a slowdown in online advertising. Nearly everyone is leveraged to the hilt. Nearly everyone has already cut everything that can be cut.
5. I don't believe that B2B is prepared for whatever the next big thing may be.

I'm not suggesting that it's time to panic. I am suggesting it's time to look long and hard at what we are capable of doing. How much can we reasonably expect to grow? How realistic is it to expect the online advertising market to continue to expand? How can we survive a downturn and meet the debt payments?
What can we reasonably expect from 2008?

(For more on this subject, check out what my friend Paul says about B2B in Asia. I think he's a little worried too.)

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Monday, December 03, 2007

It's time to fire my friends

"Listen, the Web is the most exciting part of a modern journalism enterprise for ambitious writers and editors. If they haven't figured it out by now, to hell with them."
Those are the words of Jon Friedman in a column published today on MarketWatch. You can read the rest of his comments, born of a frustrating experience at the American Magazine Conference, by clicking here.

Now it's worth noting for the thousandth time that I am not one of those people who believe print is dead. Rather, I believe that some of print is dead. Some of it isn't dead yet. And some of it will live forever.
I, unlike Friedman, don't expect to read the obituary of the magazine industry any time soon.
However, I do believe -- strongly -- that the careers of a great numbers of great journalists are dead. The refusal to accept the changes in journalism has turned many of the people I know in this industry from assets into liabilities. These people -- many of them friends of mine -- are the whining editors and publishers that Friedman says "still view the Web as more of a curse than a blessing."
And although it is sad, and although it is a loss to the profession, it's time to let these folks go.
Friedman is right: writers and editors that haven't figured out that Web is now the most important part of what we do aren't worth worrying about any longer.

On the other hand, I'm not ready to give up on journalism students ... at least not yet.
As I've said before, the next generation is woefully unprepared to work in today's media. But I have faith that smart teachers can undo the damage inflicted by the journalism dinosaurs that roam the halls of academia.
And even if this entire generation of college students turns out to have been ruined by print-centric, elderly people, there are indications that today's high school students may turn out just fine.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I'm a famous personality

If you're anything like me, you like to visit B2B magazine Web sites -- particularly those that cover the industry in which we work (publishing.)
But if you're anything like me, you have been consistently disappointed that the sites that cover our world are such poor role models. Certainly the reporting at places like min, B2B magazine, etc., is often quite good. But the sites themselves are also often quite ugly.

But as of today, that is no longer true at the flagship publication of the magazine-publishing industry. Folio magazine has launched its long-awaited redesign. And as I took a quick spin through the site this morning, I decided that it's lovely. Take a look.

As you peruse the new site, pay particular attention to Folio's new bloggers section. You'll see that I'm one of the folks featured. Folio has been nice enough to label the section "Folio: Personalities." I like that. It's nice to be thought of as a "personality." It's so much more pleasant than "jerk," "vermin" or any of the obscenities that regularly fill my in-box.

Addendum: Check out Prescott Shibles' reaction to the new Folio site here.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Improving our reputation

B2B journalism has many problems. But certainly the largest problem we face is our reputation. The ugly truth is that trade journalism is often thought of as second-rate and unethical.
Back when I launched this blog a few years ago, I did so with one primary purpose -- to call for a new era of professionalism in B2B publishing.
And by and large, I have been pleased by what I have seen. Furthermore, I have been impressed by the hundreds of B2B journalists I have met who believe that our work is both vital and honorable.
So this week, as we in the U.S. celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, I'll be expressing gratitude for all of the folks in B2B that work to ensure that those of us who toil in the trade press be thought of as talented and moral professionals.

But when the holiday ends, I'll go back to the trenches. Because this fight isn't over.
Consider if you will the nasty tone of this article in MediaPost, in which the writer says :"You’ll rarely get a point of view in a trade magazine that’s not biased by some hidden agenda. "(Thanks to Prescott Shibles for pointing me toward the piece. His response can be found here.)

Although I am disappointed to see an article like that in 2007, I am not surprised. The trade press is an easy target. We make ourselves an easy target.
For every hero in B2B, there are whores.
For every champion, there are cowards.
But I believe that bit by bit, day by day, article by article, we are becoming an industry worthy of the love we show it.
And that progress is all because of folks like you -- the readers of this blog.
So thanks. And Happy Thanksgiving.

(Note: It was almost exactly a year ago that the Wall Street Journal suggested that trade journalism was a less-than-ethical backwater in the media world. Click here to see my reaction.)

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Be an expert in less than an hour!

What new-media skill can a print-based journalism student -- graduating in December without a job -- learn quickly enough to avoid having to move back home with Mom and Dad?

That's been the question bouncing around in my head following my recent meetings with journalism students at the National College Media Convention, as well as the recent online conversation about the state of such students.

And I think I have the answer: search-engine optimization.

Now don't get me wrong. No one can become an SEO expert in a matter of weeks. But it is possible to learn enough about SEO in just a few minutes to impress the heck out of anyone who doesn't know SEO.
And if there's one thing I've learned in this business it's that most folks in publishing don't know anything about SEO. More importantly, many of the working journalists I know stubbornly refuse to learn SEO. So nearly every newsroom -- particularly at the smaller newspapers and magazines -- needs someone who knows SEO.

So if you're about to graduate, here's what you should do:
1. Follow this link and watch the video of Marshall Simmonds, the chief search strategist at the New York Times Co. (DISCLOSURE: I do some work for New York Times Digital.) The video will run for 25 minutes.
2. Watch the video a second time.

After that, you'll know more about SEO than almost any reporter or editor on almost any publication you can name. You won't be an expert ... not really. But it's pretty unlikely that anyone you interview with will know that.
Add a sentence or two about SEO to your resume. In your cover letter, talk about using SEO to attract readers to the work you plan on doing once you get hired. Make sure that you mention how much you're looking forward to sharing your SEO knowledge with other folks at your new job.

When you schedule an interview, make sure you ask your prospective employer what content-management system they use on the Web site. Then, before the interview, find someone on campus (possibly in IT or computer science) to help you understand how to use your new-found SEO skills in that CMS. (In other words, does the CMS allow you to customize the title tag, or will you have to know a little html? Does it automatically choose the headline as the title tag? Or does it just default to the name of the publication?) Be able to tell your prospective employer how you'll optimize the stories you write for his publication.
Then pay a visit to Search Engine Land, the single best source of information on SEO. Read everything you can.

Then show up for the interview, dressed nicely and smelling of breath mints, and show them that you're more than just another print guy.
And if, god help you, you actually land the job, try to find a real SEO expert who will coach you for a few hours on what to do once you start work.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Good news on the ethics front

I'm in a good mood.
Just a day after I noted in this blog that Ziff Davis' PC Magazine had broken its word and once again violated industry ethics by using ads-within-edit, a reader of this blog sent me some good news.
American Business Media has changed the rules for its Neal Awards. Henceforth "Web sites submitted (for consideration for Best Web Site) should not hyperlink editorial content to advertising or other paid material." (You can read all the rules in this pdf document.)

I'll take some credit for this change. Longtime readers of this blog will remember that I complained earlier this year when eWeek was nominated for a Neal Award even though the magazine's Web site violated ABM's ethics policy. Check out this earlier post in which ABM's Sara Sheadel responded and said the organization would likely change its rules.

Selling links inside editorial copy is wrong. It's offensive, misleading and disgusting. It belittles the work that thousands of B2B journalist do every day of their careers. It cheapens a Web site and damages the reputation of all of us in B2B publishing.
ASBPE has ruled on this issue. And now ABM has made its stance clear as well.
ASME, however, remains silent.
And that is just pathetic.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ziff Davis breaks its promise: Ads return to edit copy

Just a day after I noted with disdain that ABM and ASME have yet to respond to the ads-within-edit scandal, I find that Ziff Davis has apparently gone back on its word.

The offensive and misleading ads from Vibrant Media -- which appear as links within news stories -- are now appearing in PC Magazine. Take a look at this article to see the ads.

If you've followed this issue in the past year, you know that Ziff Davis promised to remove the ads from its Web sites if the B2B trade associations said the product violated ethics policies. ASBPE came forward to say exactly that. And Ziff pulled the ads.

So why are the ads back? ASBPE hasn't changed its policy. Has PC Magazine decided that the rules of ethics don't apply?

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

ASME arrives late to ethics debate

In the past year, B2B journalism has suffered one of the most embarrassing scandals in its history, as several companies -- including VNU and Ziff Davis -- began to sell ads within editorial. Words in stories were marked as hypertext links. But the links didn't lead to other news or information chosen by editors, the links were inserted by a company called IntelliTXT and they led to ads. The links were misleading, offensive and clearly violated ethics guidelines.

Longtime readers of this blog will remember the debate that ensued. But if you're new to this issue, let me say this: most of the associations that claim to represent the interests of B2B publishing failed -- miserably -- during the crisis.
On May 3, I published something on this blog asking the American Society of Business Publication Editors, American Business Media and the American Society of Magazine Editors to issue a ruling on the ads-in-edit controversy. Although VNU had backed away after I complained, and although it was clear to me and to hundreds of others that these ads were unethical, an executive at Ziff Davis had told Folio magazine that the ads did not violate the organizations' ethics guidelines.
So I asked the three groups to clarify.

ASBPE -- god bless it -- responded within hours, issuing a statement that "ad links within editorial text should NOT be sold under any condition."
But ABM and ASME never responded.
They never issued statements. They never answered my emails or phone calls on the subject. They just ignored the whole thing. They have continued to ignore the scandal ... for six months.

So you'll have to forgive me for being unimpressed by the news that ASME intends to update its ethics guidelines.
I mean seriously, ASME has had a half of a year to decide if its existing ethics policy actually means what it appears to mean. ASME has had a half of a year to decide if it's unethical to sell the actual words that journalists write. So I have no faith that ASME's new policy will actually address the tough issues, and I have no faith that ASME will actually stand behind whatever policy it does issue.

Glamour editor Cindi Leive is president of ASME. In announcing the plans to update the group's ethics policy, she said that "The church-state wall isn’t as clear or defined as it is in print.”
I disagree. As I have said dozens of times in this blog and in meetings with journalists and journalism students -- the rules of ethics haven't changed online, and you shouldn't let them. The church-state wall is clear. Edit is still edit. An ad is still an ad. Transparency is still the key to ethical behavior. And all of our ethics rules still boil down to one simple concept: Don't mislead the reader.

What has changed is that the journalists of B2B have fewer places to turn when the pressure to behave unethically builds. We can still trust ASBPE to stand behind us. But ABM and ASME have demonstrated that we cannot depend upon them.
(UPDATE: ABM has made it's position clear, and I'm thrilled.)

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Monday, November 05, 2007

More on the next crop of journalists

Leonard Witt at PJNet is concerned by some of the advice that I, Bryan Murley, Doug Fisher and Rob Curley give journalism students.
This is important stuff. And if you care about the future of our industry, you should be involved in this discussion.

If you haven't been following this debate, you can read my original post here.
Check out what Leonard said here.
Read Rob's response here.
Read Doug's original post and his response to Leonard here.

I responded in a comment to Leonard's blog. I've posted a copy of that comment below:
I think it should be clear by now that none of the folks you mention in your post believe that multimedia skills replace writing skills. This isn’t an either/or issue. (On the other hand, I do believe that reporting skills trump all other skills. Being a good reporter requires a particular personality type. I can’t teach that. I can, however, teach anyone to tell a story in adequate fashion. Many professional outfits feel the same way. For example, Bloomberg News requires that every journalist they hire — even those with decades of experience — attend a month-long program where they learn to tell stories in the Bloomberg style. )
What Rob, Doug, Bryan, Ryan and I are talking about is what students need to know in order to land a job. And the simple truth is that a kid who “only wants to be a writer” is unemployable.
Life in the working media today is hard. Competition is fierce. The hours are long. And the single most valuable thing an employee can bring to the table is flexibility.
I know dozens and dozens of very talented “writers” with decades of experience that have lost their jobs in recent years. I’m sure you do too. And it’s insane to expect that an industry that has laid off thousands of 40-year-old “writers” would be interested in hiring 22-year -old “writers.”
We expect something more from the next generation. We expect basic skills in Web journalism.
There is also another ugly truth here. I’ve met these kids. I’ve read their clips. And, as Rob Curley said, “they're not nearly as hot as they think they are.”
When I meet someone who “only wants to be a writer,” this is what I tell him:
1. Good luck.
2. Sell your work. If you have any writing ability at all, you should be able to sell your stuff on a freelance basis. A byline in the college paper doesn’t make you a writer. If you haven’t sold some pieces by your senior year, you either can’t write or you don’t work hard enough.
3. Find a way to pay the bills. Because no one I know will hire you as a journalist. Just like a struggling actor, get a job as a waiter and practice your craft in your free time.
4. If writing is the only thing you want to do, then write. Do it every day. Try to do it well. Do it because it makes you happy. But don’t expect me or my clients to subsidize your passion with a paycheck and health insurance. We’re not in the writing business. We’re in the journalism business.

For more on this topic, check out what Chris O'Brien at PBS' MediaShift said. And read what John Robinson at the Greensboro News & Record said.
Make sure you check out this advice from journalism student Sean Blanda.
And if you want to read the work of a 23-year-old who "gets it," check out Pat Thornton.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

The next crop of journalists

"In almost every newspaper I've worked in, the most close-minded person I've ever come across is the 23-year-old recent grad."
Those are the words of Rob Curley, arguably the smartest guy working in journalism today. Rob's comments came last week during his keynote speech at the National College Media Convention hosted by College Media Advisers and the Associated Collegiate Press. (You can see a photo of Rob and listen to an audio clip of part of his remarks by clicking here.)

I was lucky enough to be at the convention and hear Rob in person. And I assure you, there's not a more passionate advocate for this profession.
I was there to co-host a session on resumes, portfolios and other tools for landing a job. (Longtime readers of this blog will guess correctly that I was invited because of my earlier comments on the subject.)
I met a lot of students at the convention. And I'm afraid I must say the next crop of entry-level journalists is about as close-minded as the present set. There were some exceptions, but they were few and far between. Most of the folks I met were similar to the "silo students" I've been complaining about for awhile now -- those inflexible seniors who become the close-minded 23-year olds in Rob's newsrooms.
And the root of this inflexibility seems to be the sort of nonsense that some of the older journalism teachers are feeding their students.
Among the disconcerting things I ran into at the convention:
1. A senior who said his journalism teachers told him he should never tell a prospective employer he knows how to shoot photos, because it means he'll never get a chance to write.
2. A student who said her adviser told her she should never, ever mention her college newspaper's Web site on her resume, because no magazine will hire someone who has written for the Web.
3. A student who said she was told by teachers that newspaper design was a booming field.
4. A slew of students who seemed unaware of the financial and circulation challenges the print media industry is facing.
5. At least a dozen students who said they want to be "writers" and that have zero interest in working on any Web-based product.

Rob and I aren't the only people to notice that a large percentage of the next group of journalists seem completely unprepared for journalism in 2007 and beyond. Just yesterday, Howard Owens mentioned the problem.

I have my doubts that journalism schools will be able to resolve this problem anytime soon. I fear that the industry is going to have to wait a few years until more of the older and out-of-touch professors retire.
Until then, we may all be better off recruiting from outside journalism departments -- looking at English, business and computer-science majors.
But I haven't given up completely. And I'll be sharing my opinions on journalism careers with another bunch of students in February when I'm the keynote speaker at the Southeast Journalism Conference in Oxford, Miss.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

All You Need Is Love

Long before "Lost," there was another television show about being stranded on a mysterious island and held captive by strange characters. "The Prisoner," starring Patrick McGoohan, aired in the 1960s and later became a cult classic in repeats on public television. In that show, McGoohan played "Number Six," a former spy tormented by "Number Two," "Rover" and a host of bizarre people living in "the Village" and accessing underground observation centers.
The most controversial episode of "The Prisoner" was the series finale, in which the unanswered questions of the show are left unanswered. Instead, viewers were exposed to a series of strange images, symbols and the sound of the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love."
(Prediction: When "Lost" airs its series finale, I expect to see at least one reference to the finale of "The Prisoner." And it will probably be that same Beatles tune.)

I found myself thinking of the conclusion of "The Prisoner" last week as I wrote the final piece in my five-part series on questions for B2B media. In that blog post I asked "What can you, your staff and your publication bring to the table that no one else can?
I promised to give my answer to that question this week.
And here it is:

I don't mean love of the industry you cover. That's the realm of user-generated content, expert columnists and feedback functions. I mean love of the industry that you're in.
In B2B media, we are in the business of connecting people with information and with each other. Increasingly, that's the business that all of media is in. But in B2B, that has always been the core of what we do.
And as long as we love it, we can survive any challenge.

I'm not talking about loving your publication. Because your publication may become obsolete. I'm not talking about loving the stories you write, the graphics you design or the photos you take -- those are but a part of what we do. I'm not talking about loving your employer, which may view you as nothing more than a piece of machinery.
I'm talking about loving this game. I'm talking about loving this profession. I'm talking about obsessive love, irrational love, exuberant love -- love of the game even as the game changes and it sometimes breaks your heart.

There will always be someone who can publish more articles, produce more content more quickly, write better prose and shoot better video. There will always be bloggers and standalone journalists with more insight than many of the folks on your staff. There will always be marketers with bigger budgets and better research creating content that will rival your own. You cannot win all those battles all the time.
The only weapon you have is the love of the game.

For more than two years now, I have asked various versions of the following question: "if you're in this game for the money, how can you compete against someone who is in it for love? "
And the answer is that you can't.

Close observers of B2B media have seen two very different visions emerge of what it means to be in this business. First, there are the new voices -- standalone journalists, bloggers and others who write because they feel passion for their subject. Second, there are the new investors -- private equity firms and leveraged-buyout specialists who look at B2B media as a series of "properties" and "products" that need to cut costs, grow revenue and then be resold again and again.
In the middle are the professionals of B2B -- the editors, reporters, designers and other foot soldiers of our industry.
And to those people I say the following: It's time to choose sides.

When the investors cut your pay, when the investors show contempt for your ethics, the only reason to stay in B2B media is because you love this game. Only love will give you the strength to fight the good fights and to quit when your boss crosses the line. When new competitors emerge and your core publications begin to lose money, only love will give you the strength to work harder and smarter and build something new you can be proud of.
So choose a side.
And remember that love is all you need. In fact, it's all you have.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Five important questions for B2B media: Part Five

(This is the final post in a five-part series in which I pose questions about the state of B2B media.
You can find the earlier installments here, here, here and here.)

I spoke at the Folio:Show a few weeks ago, sharing my thoughts on hiring in this new and challenging era of multimedia reporting, programmer/journalists and social media. I ended my remarks by talking briefly about a young New Zealander named Glenn Wolsey.
I'm a fan of Glenn's work. So I like to use him as an example of what the new style of journalist can look like. He has the subject matter expertise that B2B media requires (Glenn is an expert on Apple products.) He's a talented writer. He looks great in video. And he's a gifted photographer. He publishes a blog, and is comfortable with conversational media. And as a resident of New Zealand who writes about a U.S.-based company, he symbolizes all that is important and powerful about the global economy and a distributed workforce.
But the real reason I love to use Glenn as an example is the shock value.
Because he's only 15-years old.
Check out Glenn's site here. Or read an interview with him here.

A little more than two years ago I wrote for the first time about what I sensed was becoming a phenomenon -- standalone journalism (or entrepreneurial journalism.) The Web had created a situation in which anyone could be a publisher. There were no start-up costs. There was no need to cajole investment bankers into lending you money. You didn't need a boss, a circulation department, ad salesmen, printers, tech staff or a receptionist.
You could publish all by yourself. And you could do it because you thought you could make money. Or you could do it because you enjoyed it. Even 15-year olds like Glenn -- who would never have been able to grab the attention of traditional publishers -- were now free to compete in the realm of ideas, rather than the worlds of investment capital or traditional employment.
Two years ago this month, as more bloggers and entrepreneurs rushed into our markets, I told readers that "it's time to ask yourself, if you're in this game for the money, how can you compete against someone who is in it for love? "

Certainly the rise of "user-generated content" has provided part of the answer. Publishers have found that they can co-opt the passion of this new generation of bloggers and standalone journalists by bringing them in-house while allowing their style of conversational journalism to flourish. Every smart B2B publisher has embraced the idea that readers are also writers, that the audience can also be reporters, that everyone can contribute.

But consider, if you will, some of the other challenges that have arisen.
Google has replaced the home page. People don't "surf" for information the way they did just a few years ago. Now they search for it. And woe is the B2B publisher who is so delusional that he thinks readers continue to bookmark his site and check it constantly for updates.
Content aggregators have become delivery systems. For everyone who subscribes to one of our newsletters, there's someone else who subscribes to a more neutral provider like SmartBrief or FierceMarkets.
Once we could argue that the work we produced had a professionalism that others could not duplicate. But that's no longer true. Content marketers have learned our methods, and they are producing compelling content that rivals anything done by traditional publishers.

There are, of course, ways to respond to these challenges. Search-engine optimization is a must-have skill for journalists and publishers. The way to make your email newsletter more valuable is by offering more value within it -- linking to information wherever it comes from, including competitors. B2B companies can expand their custom-publishing operations and embrace the it-doesn't-read-like-an-ad mentality of the smartest content marketers.

But the challenges keep coming. And I have my doubts that most B2B companies are prepared for whatever comes next.

Half-full Glass
If you're a longtime reader of this blog, or if you've ever seen me speak at an industry event, then you know I am both thrilled and optimistic about the changes in media. I'm not one of those people who long for the old days. I love bloggers and multimedia reporters and programmer/journalists. I love feedback functions and Website functionality. I love YouTube and Facebook and Twitter. I love RSS and CSS and every other acronym in the new-media world.
But I also recognize that we have lost things.
Until recently, most of us were among the sole voices that people recognized and trusted in the industries we cover. Until recently, our publications were among the few ways that marketers could reach their targets. We worked less than we do now, but it was easier to make money.

In business, people sometimes talk about points of difference and unique selling propositions. But in B2B media, it's getting harder and harder for people to point to what makes their products unique. Everyone is a publisher now and Google is everyone's circulation department.

Which brings us to today's question:
What can you, your staff and your publication bring to the table that no one else can? (I've published my answer to that question here.)

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Five important questions for B2B media: Part Four

This is the fourth installment in a five-part series in which I pose questions about the state of B2B media. You can read the earlier pieces here, here and here.

My friend Doug Fisher, a journalism professor at the University of South Carolina, recently wrote about disagreements in the newspaper industry involving Caspio, a system that is designed to make it easier for journalists to publish database-driven information to the Web.
In brief, some of the best minds in journalism fear that when newspapers use Caspio they are missing an opportunity to develop database-programmer journalists of their own.
My first reaction to Doug's piece was this: I wish we had this problem in B2B.

Unlike the newspaper world, B2B media has long seen the value of providing data to customers. A good portion of B2B companies publish databases, directories, buyers guides, etc. But unlike the newspaper world, B2B publishing companies have not yet seen the value of having journalists interact with the data.
Or, to put it another way, B2B media hasn't fallen in love with the work of Adrian Holovaty.

If you're not familiar with Adrian's work, then you just haven't been paying attention. In just a few, short years he has been instrumental in three massive shifts in media -- ultra-local reporting, the creation of Django development software, and database-driven journalism (including his award-winning mash-up, He's gone from the Lawrence Journal-World in Kansas to the Washington Post. And he recently won a $1 million grant from the Knight News Challenge.
He is perhaps the most important person working in journalism today, although he's not yet 30-years old.
And most B2B editors have never heard of him.

Nearly everyone who writes about media has written about Adrian. But if you're new to the subject, I'd suggest you start by reading this profile in American Journalism Review. Then visit Adrian's site and read some of the pieces he's written himself.
What you'll find (and please forgive my simplistic explanation) is that Adrian urges newspaper reporters to recognize that the information they collect can be viewed as "structured data" that can be stored in databases and repurposed into new forms of journalism.
And increasingly, the smartest newspaper reporters and editors in the world have begun to follow his lead.

Although we B2B journalists are further behind our newspaper brothers in learning to see story elements (earnings, dates, names, events) as data, we do have a distinct advantage in mastering database-driven reporting: We are already awash in data. For many of us, there is an entire department of people down the hall who collect, store and sell data to our readers.
But many B2B reporters never even look at the stuff.

A year and a half ago I wrote a post about two very different experiences I've had with data at publishing companies. At one publisher, the very idea that a reporter like me wanted access to the data so that I could mine it for stories was seen as silly. But at another company, reporters were required to mine the data for stories.
You can read the details here. I don't think you'll be surprised to learn that the first company is now a shell of its former self; while the second company is arguably the most successful electronic publisher in history.

Over in Philadelphia, my friend Russell Perkins runs a group called InfoCommerce. It's a consulting and research firm for data providers. And each year Russell offers something he calls his "Models of Excellence Awards."
Take a look at this year's winners here. Then check out earlier winners here. What you'll find is that while some award winners are from B2B publishing companies, most of the best stuff comes from standalone data and search providers.

I cannot help but wonder if one way to improve B2B publishers' data products -- many of which are already quite wonderful -- would be to allow B2B journalists to experiment, mash-up, drill down and write about what they find in the databases. I have no doubt whatsoever -- because I have seen it in my own reporting -- that opening up the databases to journalists will lead to new, previously unimagined stories and graphics.

Which leads to today's question:
How can we create an environment at our companies where smart people in editorial and data can learn to build stories, products, databases and ideas together?

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Five important questions for B2B media: Part Three

This is the third in a five-part series in which I pose important questions for B2B media. You can see Part One by clicking here. Check out Part Two by clicking here.

If you're reading this, odds are you're white.

Since I started my consulting business a few years ago, I've had the chance to visit dozens of B2B publications. I've also had the chance to speak at tradeshows run by Folio magazine, the American Society of Business Publication Editors and American Business Media.
And everywhere I've gone I've looked out upon audiences made up almost entirely of white people.
It's really begun to drive me nuts.

Sure, every once in awhile I'll see a few Asian folks. That's particularly true in New York and California. And sometimes I'll meet someone with a Spanish surname.
But of the roughly 1,000 U.S.-based B2B journalists I've met, no more than a dozen or so were black, Arabic or South Asian.

It's been nearly two years since I first wrote about this issue. Back then, after a visiting a series of white-dominated businesses, I said "it has become positively creepy to visit your newsrooms." And I assure you that the creepiness factor has only increased.
In addition to the whiteness factor, here are some other things I have noted:
1. An absence of black folks in the newsroom does not reflect the numbers of blacks in a community. Even in cities such as New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Kansas City -- all of which have substantial numbers of black residents -- B2B news staffers are overwhelmingly white.
2. The lack of black folks in a newsroom does not correspond to a lack of black folks at the company. When I wander outside even the whitest of the white newsrooms, I tend to run into substantial numbers of black people in support jobs -- payroll, circulation, reception, etc.
3. When I ask executives about the lack of minority journalists at their publications, the answer I'm most likely to receive is some variation of "we just don't get many minority candidates."
4. When I ask executives what, if any, recruiting they do that is aimed at minority candidates, the answer is almost always "none."
5. When I visit college campuses, or speak to groups of college students at journalism conferences, it is clear that part of the problem begins at the universities. The numbers of minority students at most schools is dissapointingly small.
6. It's also clear that few if any schools consider trade publishing a suitable destination for their graduates. So even schools that have large numbers of minority students tend not to funnel those kids toward us.
7. B2B's shortcomings involve race and ethnic background, not gender. I am not aware of a single B2B publication that has a problem recruiting women for entry-level jobs. Journalism schools tend to attract a good number of female students. And although it is possible to argue that management remains a male-dominated realm, the number of women in management jobs at most B2B publishers dwarfs the number of minority employees at any level in editorial.

It's worse for us
It is clear that this problem -- although present to lesser degrees across all media -- is massive in B2B. Newspapers don't have a problem this big. Television, particularly among on-air personalities, both national and local, doesn't have a problem this big. Radio is considerably more diverse. Online-only consumer news is far more diverse. B2C publishing doesn't have a problem like we do. I've worked in all those fields. And it's only in B2B where the lack of diversity is so glaring, so obvious and so overwhelming that it makes my skin crawl.

In a global economy, there are compelling reasons to diversify a workforce.
But I don't want to talk about those today. Because the more I think about this issue, the more it becomes clear to me that the problem here isn't about motivation. It's about effort.
Far too few B2B executives and senior editorial staffers put enough effort into recruiting minority journalists. Far too few of us visit historically black colleges. Far too few of us post our jobs on sites that cater to minority journalists (examples are here, here and here.) We don't do enough. That is clear to me.
What is unclear is the reason. Is B2B more racist? Is there something about this industry that attracts and rewards prejudiced people? Or is it some other character flaw? Are we lazier? Less concerned with social issues? Are we more easily defeated? Prone to giving in more readily in the face of difficult tasks?

And so this is today's question:
What is it about B2B in general, and your company in particular, that causes our race problem?

(Disclosure: I am a member of the most common demographic in B2B publishing -- I am a middle-aged, white, male.)

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Five important questions for B2B media: Part Two

Yesterday I posted the first in a five-part series of questions that folks in B2B media should be asking themselves. Here is the second post in that series.

Last week Steve Ballmer, the chief executive officer of Microsoft, was the keynote speaker at the annual Association of National Advertisers convention. And it was there -- before the group that pays the bills for all of us in media -- that he predicted the death of print publishing within 10 years. "Anything we think of as media today, whether it is print, TV or the Internet, will in fact be delivered over IP (Internet protocol) and will all be digital. Everything will be delivered digitally."

For the record, I am not one of those people who claims that print is dead. Rather, as I have said numerous times in this blog, I believe that "some of print is dead. Some of it isn't...yet. And some of it will live forever."

And I'll match Ballmer's prediction with one of my own: within 10 years, hundreds and hundreds of publications will still be printed on paper. Here are just a few of the periodicals on my desk that have a future in ink: Backpacker, Guideposts, Baseball Digest, Dwell, Giant Robot and Berkshire Living. And although I can add to that list easily, I must admit that there is not a single B2B magazine that I am convinced will be published on paper in 2017.

Tipping Points
Earlier this year, a blog post by my friend Colin Crawford at IDG caught the attention of the B2B media world. (Disclosure: IDG is a client of mine.) Colin wrote that "the absolute dollar growth of (IDG's) online revenues now exceeds the decline in our print revenues." That turning point became a tipping point for IDG. Within weeks, IDG closed the print edition of InfoWorld.

In that same post, Colin also disclosed that online revenue at IDG accounted for 35% of total U.S. publishing revenue. At some key brands, Colin said, online already generated the majority of revenue. And the company expected online revenue would reach approximately 50% of total revenue across the company by 2009.

Then, in June, CMP announced that non-print revenue had surpassed print revenue at the company for the first time. Chief Executive Officer Steve Weitzner told Folio that the "trend is continuing and the gap is actually growing." Armed with this "tipping point" data, CMP promptly closed some print publications, reduced the frequency of some others, and laid off 200 people.

And just a few weeks ago, Cygnus executives said that a decline in print advertising"has accelerated and is significantly larger than we projected during our business reviews, held less than three months ago." At that same time, Cygnus said that online ad sales had risen year-over-year by more than 50 percent. Apparently surprised by the arrival of such a tipping point, and worried about what it meant for the business, Cygnus slashed salaries across the company by 7.5 percent.

The Nature of Business
Business is nothing more -- and nothing less -- than resource management. A company controls things of value: raw materials, a workforce, etc. Management uses those things to create new things that it sells for a profit. But business is fluid. So as sales of Thing 1 rise, sales of Thing 2 sometimes fall. As the costs of creating Thing 3 increase; the costs of producing Thing 4 decline.

Thus every so often a business is forced to reconsider the things that it makes. Every so often a business is forced to ask itself: what business are we in?

In B2B media, we are in the business of connecting people with information and with each other. And it should be clear to everyone that the ways in which we do that must change. The core of what we have done for years and years -- produce print magazines -- is simply not as profitable as it once was. Print revenue is declining. Print productions costs are rising.

But other things we do are growing more profitable. Tradeshows and online publishing are generating more revenue than in the past. And, at least in online publishing, some costs are dropping. So it is inevitable -- inevitable -- that the business equation across all of B2B will shift. We will be closing more print magazines. Heck, within 10 years we may close them all. We will be shifting resources -- firing some workers, hiring new ones, changing incentive plans for ad sales, increasing investment in tradeshows and online while cutting the budgets of print operations.

This will happen. It is happening already and it will continue to happen.

You can't stop it. It's not about you. It's about business. It's about risks and rewards, profits and loss.

The only thing that is open for discussion is the rate of the change. And that is something that each of us must consider individually. Just as the profit potential of print products is declining, the career potential of the people tied to those products is slipping. Just as each company in B2B must decide when to shift resources away from underperforming units, each worker in B2B must decide when to back away from a losing proposition.

So this is today's question:

What is the tipping point for you and your publication? What metric will you use to determine when you'll pull resources from print and at what level? And more importantly, when will you decide that it doesn't make good career sense for you to continue to work on a print product?

(Update: For breaking news out of InfoWorld, check out this article from Folio.)

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Five days of questions for B2B media

I don't claim to have the answers.
But I do have questions. And this week I'm going to ask five very important ones. Every day from now through Friday I'll share with you the sorts of questions that buzz around in my head ... and that should be buzzing around in yours.

A few days ago BtoB magazine asked Tad Smith, chief executive officer of Reed Business Information, to discuss his investment plans for next year (Disclosure: Reed is a client of mine.)
You can see his responses here.

What was most interesting to me was Tad's statement that he planned to boost spending on online editorial, but that he would do so by spending money on non-editorial staffers: " If you ask someone in California how many people you need to start a Web site, the response is three engineers and one editorial person. If you ask the same question in New York, the response is three editorial people and one engineer. To me, a dollar today spent on site engineering is better than one spent on building editorial content. This may seem counterintuitive, but there's too much focus on content. What you need is content that is more easily found and, when found, more enjoyable to read. That is all about engineering. We want to have sites where people come to enjoy the great content we already have. "

No doubt that's the sort of statement that outrages a good number of journalists. But the truth -- ugly as it may be -- is that Tad is right. For most B2B publishers there is too much focus on the art of content creation and and not enough on the science of content distribution. Editors are creating tons of articles. But since few editors have the skills or interest to optimize their articles for search, much of their effort is wasted.
It's comparable to producing a newspaper with a staff of hundreds of journalists but not a single printer.

Even more worrisome is the widespread problem in B2B publishing of misunderstanding how people consume content on the Web. Much of what we ask people to read online is just plain unreadable on a computer screen.
There is no excuse for producing a text-heavy monstrosity like this site from CMP. And why would anyone think the design of this Grand View Media site is acceptable? Or, for that matter, go back and take a look at the remarkably Web-unfriendly look of the interview with Tad. As I wrote nearly a year ago, BtoB Magazine seems unable to grasp the fundamentals of writing and designing for the Web.

In the past few weeks I've had conversations with a number of executives who made note of two interesting, disconcerting and possibly related facts.
First, after publishers have closed underperforming magazines, they've found that page views of the related Web sites have not suffered -- even if the sites are no longer being updated. In fact, once the editorial staff "was out of the way," as one exec said, a little search-engine optimization led to a boost in page views. Publishers have found that these sites -- full of evergreen, useful, "how-to" content -- could be profitable. The trick is to sell ads against search-engine friendly article pages, and not to "waste" money on staff to create new content.
Second, a much larger percentage of editorial staffers than anyone wanted to admit are proving absolutely incapable of functioning in the new media environment. The problems seem to be emotional and cultural, rather than intellectual. And they may be insurmountable. Or, as one senior editorial executive told me, "I just don't have the patience anymore for another conversation with another middle-aged white guy who thinks he's being mistreated by the world because I want him to know what a f**ing title tag is."

And so, this is today's question:
What is the correct ratio of art to science, creation to optimization, words to design, editor to engineer for each of us and our publications?

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Reading the anger at Cygnus

A week ago today I wrote the first of two blog posts about the trouble at Cygnus. The reaction -- in the form of comments I published, comments I censored (because they contained anonymous personal attacks), and e-mails I received -- was both shocking and informative. I warned a week ago today that Cygnus' plan to cut wages was ill-advised and that it "isn't going to end well."
If anything, I was probably being too optimistic. It's beginning to look like this could end in disaster.
Take a moment to look at those earlier posts here and here. More importantly, read the comments. Because today I want to talk about those comments and what they mean.

How bad is it?
As you read through the comments you'll see a level of fury and distrust that is nothing short of overwhelming. The staff at Cygnus is furious. In addition to the sheer anger, there are a few other things worth noting in the comments.
Consider that:
1. The staff's outrage at actual events is so intense it may be leading to outrage at imagined events. One comment refers to a company-paid trip earlier this year to Hawaii for "publishers, sales people, and their spouses/significant others." But another comment says no such trip took place.
2. The atmosphere at the company is now so poisonous that even when management is making sense, the staff doesn't hear it. In one comment, a staff member is angry that the co-CEOs had earlier said that "We anticipate interactive budgets to EQUAL print budgets within 2 years."
The person posting the comments calls that projection "unrealistic" and "nonsense." But it's neither. I don't know if the co-CEOs were talking about their clients' advertising budgets or if they were taking about Cygnus' internal budgets. But either way, interactive budgets already exceed print budgets in much of B2B. But at this point it seems likely that the staff is unable to hear even when senior management is making sense.
3. As things were deteriorating at Cygnus, it appears that senior management continued to give editors new duties (making "on-site reader calls," whatever those are), and then misleading the staff -- suggesting that the new work could lead to pay raises.
4. There are no indications in the comments (or in the emails I've traded with Cygnus workers) to suggest that the company's human resources department has been briefed fully on the salary cuts. Workers say they can't get straight answers even to simple questions. (Note: a staff meeting has been scheduled for this week, and it's likely that many questions will be answered then.)
5. No senior or mid-management people have stepped forward to defend the company's actions. Not one person. Not a single one. That speaks volumes.

Irreconcilable differences?
At Cygnus, the employees and executives are not working together. Rather, they are separated by a monstrous divide of contempt and distrust.
As far as I have heard, no one among the workers or middle management believes that the salary cuts and related actions can work. No one, it seems, has any faith that senior management can pull this off. No one appears to believe that Cygnus will be OK.
Only the workers at Cygnus know for sure just how ugly things have become. Only they know how much less work is being done, how much less effort is being made.
The question is what, if anything, can be done to turn things around.

No doubt the co-CEOs and other top brass at Cygnus arrived at the decision to cut wages because they believed the environment demanded drastic action. Perhaps they were right. Perhaps not. Only those people who have seen the company's books and debt agreements know for sure.
But I have no doubt that as drastic as the situation might have been, it would have been a wiser move to take a different drastic action. Cutting wages for every worker in the company is not a recipe for saving a company. It's an invitation to low morale, sabotage and an exodus of your key players.

If Cygnus' senior management is reading this, allow me to suggest the following:
Now is the time for drastic action. You have to do something to win back your staff and you have to do it quickly.
Because when I read the comments and emails of this past week it is clear to me that Cygnus is slipping away.

(For another take on this, check out this post by Prescott Shibles, the smartest guy who ever worked for me. Prescott talks about how his morale was crushed years ago when the company we both worked for stared cutting wages for execs and freezing salaries for everyone else. That company -- or at least the unit we worked for -- survived and thrived. And Prescott has too. However, it's worth noting that new investors and a very different sort of CEO led the company back from the depths.)

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Things get really ugly, really fast at Cygnus

On Sunday, I posted something to this blog about the troubles at Cygnus. I suggested that upper management's decision to cut wages would lead to morale problems, and warned that the plan to cut salaries "isn't going to end well."

It now appears that I underestimated just how angry folks were.

In the past few days I have rejected 12 comments to this blog because they violate the one rule I have about comments -- no anonymous personal attacks (There is one exception -- I generally allow anonymous personal attacks on me.)
That's a record. Nothing I've ever written has generated such nastiness. The folks at Cygnus are livid. And I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that the staff hates the company.

To those of you who wish to vent your anger on this blog, I ask that you please resend your comments. Feel free to do so anonymously. I understand that many of you fear for your jobs. But if you wish to be anonymous, do not mention bosses, co-workers, administrative staff or others by name or by identifying title. I'm sure that those of you in editorial understand my hesitation to publish anonymous personal attacks and curse words. I'm sure you have similar rules at your publications.
Also, some of you have shared personal anecdotes about the management of Cygnus. These stories, if true, are illustrative of what has gone wrong at the company. But I'm not willing to publish those accusations anonymously. Nor do I have the time and resources to "launch an investigation" of the people in charge. Instead, I would urge you to contact the reporting staff at Folio magazine. Perhaps they would be interested in chasing this story.
Thanks. And good luck in these next few difficult weeks.

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Things get ugly at Cygnus

There's some depressing news out of Cygnus Business Media. The B2B publisher is slashing workers' pay by 7.5 percent and cutting hours for hourly workers. Cygnus says senior executives will also have their pay cut. But the company -- seemingly deaf to the public-relations implications of not being transparent -- won't say how much of a cut the big boys will take.
The cost reductions may be related to debt covenants, according to Folio magazine. Cygnus, like many a B2B publisher these days, is controlled by a private equity firm. And as anyone who follows B2B publishing knows, such investors often find themselves owing more than they can pay.
And as we've seen before at Primedia, Ziff Davis and elsewhere -- it's the workers who bear the burden of poorly structured investment deals.

When I launched my consulting business several years ago, Cygnus was one of my first clients. And although I haven't done business with them for a few years now, the company retains a place in my heart. So when I heard the news about the salary cuts, it hit me sort of hard.
The story broke late on Friday as I ended a multiday trip in which I gave two presentations on the future of B2B publishing. And, as I often do, I suggested in both presentations that journalists would need to work harder than ever before to succeed in the fiercely competitive new world of new media.
But as I read the Folio article about Cygnus I was struck by three rather remarkable items that suggest that hard work -- perhaps even extraordinarily hard work -- may not be enough at some companies.

Consider this:
First, it appears Cygnus has seen online ad sales rise year-over-year by more than 50 percent.
Second, the co-CEOs of Cygnus told workers that a decline in print advertising"has accelerated and is significantly larger than we projected during our business reviews, held less than three months ago."
Third, one source expressed dismay that the company's management and owners would be "willing to make the company go through this trauma in order to avoid the modest costs and pain of a bank amendment."
Or in other words:
1. There is evidence that the staff at Cygnus is working harder online than before.
2. Senior management made an error in their projections.
3. The staff is being asked to cover the costs of senior management's mistake -- even though there is another option (reworking the bank agreements.)

I have little doubt that the situation at Cygnus is more complicated than I have portrayed it. Perhaps the debt covenants are unusually tough. Perhaps the creditors are unusually cruel. There are probably dozens of things that I know nothing about that contributed to the decision to cut wages.
Nonetheless, I'm comfortable agreeing with the source in the Folio story who called the salary cuts a "desperate and short-sighted move."
This isn't going to end well.

(Footnote: Speaking of working "harder than ever before to succeed in the fiercely competitive new world of new media," it's worth noting that Folio published its story after the close of business on Friday. But Folio's primary competitors -- BtoB Magazine and min -- still don't have anything on their sites some two days later. )

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Friday, September 21, 2007

At the Folio:Show next week

Some of the best and brightest folks in the magazine world will be at the Folio:Show next week in New York City.
I'll be there too.

If you're attending, make sure you say hello. I'm co-hosting a session on Wednesday morning titled "Who Should You Hire: Journalists, Market Pros or E-Wizards? Come on by and introduce yourself.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Advertising in the near future

If you read the New York Times today, you'll see a number of articles that point to massive changes in the way we in the media will generate revenue in the near future. Each of the articles touches on different subjects. But combined they tell a tale that points to a whole new world.
And, as is often the case, I'm worried that B2B media isn't ready.

The first article reports that social-networking powerhouse MySpace "says that after experimenting with technology over the last six months it can (now) tailor ads to the personal information that its 110 million active users leave on their profile pages."
The second article reports that AOL is relocating its corporate headquarters to New York City and combining its advertising sales into an operation run by Curtis G. Viebranz, the former chief executive of Tacoda. Tacoda, the king of behavioral targeting, was purchased by AOL earlier this year.

So think about this for a minute: two of the largest players on the Web are throwing their weight behind technology that delivers advertising that is targeted to an individual, rather than to a demographic. MySpace will deliver ads based on what a user tells the company about himself. AOL, using behavioral targeting, will deliver ads based on how a user acts online.
In B2B, we have long touted that our products --either on the Web or in print -- can target ads to a specialized and engaged audience. But it would seem to me that our traditional ad recipe -- the same ad to everyone in an industry -- cannot compete against technology that delivers unique ads to each reader.
Consider, for example, the power of delivering an ad about business-finance software to the CFO, while delivering an ad about storage facilities to the folks in the logistics department.
And consider, for a moment, that the new technologies that AOL and MySpace are adopting mean that those specific ads can be delivered to those specific B2B readers in places other than B2B products.
Soon, very soon, that CFO will be seeing business-finance software ads even when he's reading about sports on some mainstream Web site.

There is, of course, also an opportunity here for online B2B publications. Opening up our readership to these targeted ads would prove attractive to marketers. There's no reason why an advertiser wouldn't want to show an individually targeted ad to the reader of a B2B publication. If one of our readers is in the market for a new car, or is obsessed with video games, or is shopping for a new suit, we should be willing to serve him an appropriate ad even on the pages of Avionics Engineer Monthly.

There are two other articles in today's Times that also point toward this new future. I'll link to them here without further comment.
First, Google has announced plans to offer ads tailored for mobile phones.
Second, the Times has announced it is pulling down the pay wall on its Web site.

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