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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Box Scores 

No, I'm not much of a baseball fan (even though our town is getting the--woo hoo!--Nationals.) My Indianapolis-bred sports tastes tend to run toward fast cars, and our season is well underway. But I'm becoming a big fan of min's b2b's new and expanded advertising box scores.

The min's b2b gang has allied with IMS/The Auditor to expand their coverage of advertising pages counts, organized by category and, over the past few weeks, by publishing company.

I've always felt that cumulative ad page rankings, by category, don't tell much of a story. Over the last few years, while American Business Media's BIN report was showing the sky falling across all sectors (tech, most notably), I continued to hear stories from colleagues of excellent advertising results on individual products. The problem? Broad categories don't show the power of individual niches or titles within that category. And shallow box scores (showing just a few titles) can't really show you how the number one and two books might be doing against numbers 3 through 9.

Is the number one book grabbing share from a diminishing pool of advertising dollars? Is an upstart book chipping away at the leaders?

These are important things to look at. I've never published a magazine that owned 100% of a category. And it's never mattered much to me whether a category I published in was up or down in ad pages. I only cared about the ad pages my magazine got. Was I up or down? And why? Simply because a sector might no longer be able to support 20 titles doesn't mean that it's not a potentially rich market for five magazines.

I think we did ourselves a disservice in the last recession by focusing on the broad decline in ad pages. Yes, it might have been a reality, but what message did we send to customers? As we wrung our hands over the drop in pages, and bemoaned the possible death of B2B print media, we certainly weren't sending a positive message to marketers. Who wants to join a team of cellar-dwellers (see again, The Nationals)?

The newly expanded min's b2b box scores tell a more complete story. For example, Primedia's tracked business publications registered a 4.3% drop in ad pages from 2004 to 2003. But Primedia magazines like EC&M, Fire Chief, Fleet Owner, Registered Rep, Special Events and Telephony all posted double digit gains.

Or check out min's b2b's new Building/Construction category, which grew ad pages 5.53% in a January 05 over January 04 comparison. Makes sense, given the strength of this market. But within the category, you've got Professional Builder showing a page drop of more than 41%.

The increased depth of min's b2b's box scores makes it easier to look at markets (and opportunities) in a more sophisticated way. Kind of like studying the baseball box score for the "real story" behind that exciting 1-0 game.

Disclosure: I had a hand in launching min's b2b years ago. I've also done business with IMS/The Auditor. And so should you.

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