Friday, December 12, 2008

Slipping into darkness

Just three days ago I published a post outlining why I thought the "B2B industry as we know it is about to collapse." Included in that post was a reference to predictions by Outsell that the industry would experience further layoffs, a reference by me to the impossibility of selling a B2B company in this market, and an outline of my growing concern that Web-only companies were in as much trouble as print-based companies.
Well, I hate to say I told you so, but here's what I've seen in the few days since that post ...
Crain Communications is shutting one magazine and firing 50 editorial workers.
UBM is reorganizing its New Jersey-based Commonwealth Business Media unit and laying off 350 workers across the globe.
The RBI sale, and perhaps the entire market for big M&A deals in B2B, has fallen apart.
And one of the best-known blogging networks in the world is cutting pay.

In other troubling news, I recently learned that two of the most promising young journalists I know -- both experts in multimedia reporting -- are leaving the business. I understand why they're heading for the exits. I even applaud the move. And I have tremendous faith that these two women will continue to do fantastic work. But I have great concerns when the world of journalism can't find a home for two of its most promising young people. Read about it here and here.

Please don't misread what I'm saying here. I believe in the future of journalism, particularly B2B journalism. But it's become increasingly apparent that before the next era begins, we're going to continue to experience a very difficult present.

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  1. Paul, I just got caught up on my December blog reading. Thanks for the shoutout. I do object to the "heading for the exits" reference though. I'm knocking on every door, trying to get back in the newsroom. Just have to pay the rent until then...

  2. Yikes - scary stuff Paul. Hard to imagine the changes this world is going through.

    Separate note, but one I'd be curious to get your take on PR agencies that charge per-article-placed (places like Publicity Guaranteed et al).

    Would love to see a post with your thoughts on it. Thanks!

  3. Anonymous,
    I doubt I have much insight to add to the "pay for performance" debate in public relations. But I'll try.
    My sense is that as marketers have gotten accustomed to paying only for ads that a readers acts upon (pay per click, pay per lead, etc.) the public-relations industry is finding it must offer a similar "guarantee."
    The approach of Publicity Guaranteed looks interesting. And there are probably other companies doing similar work.
    One note of caution -- and it may well be one that the p.r. industry has already addressed -- how to charge clients for "placed" stories that aren't quite as positive as the client would like. Or, to put it another way, how do you charge a client for placing a story that suggests the client is a jerk. Or that his product doesn't work. Or, more likely, also mentions his competitors.
    Here's an example: let's just pretend that you are being paid to "place" a story on this blog about Publicity Guaranteed. Do you charge your client for my response here in comments? Do you charge him even though I would suggest that trying to place a story while maintaining anonymity is an unethical activity.
    That sort of thing happens all the time in the blogging world. We call it comment spam. And there are companies that charge clients to distribute it.
    I'm not suggesting that Publicity Guaranteed is such a company. On the contrary, they seem to be a much higher-end style of product. But I'm sure you get my drift.
    It's all probably trickier than it looks.
    But the bottom line is that I don't see any particular ethical problem with a p.r. firm charging for performance rather than effort.