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Saturday, February 05, 2005

Practicing What We Preach... 

‘Managing Automation’ launches ad campaign



Managing Automation is launching an ad campaign to promote the publication to advertisers. No details--but it will be interesting to see if they advertise outside their own publication, and where.

I applaud any b2b publisher who actually uses advertising to sell advertising.

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Friday, February 04, 2005

Conde Nast Gives Print Some Heat 

NY Times: Condé Nast Makes the Case for Old-School Advertising

Kudos to Conde Nast for investing in reminding advertisers of the power of print.

Sample grab from the Times piece: "It's way past time to start selling the medium" of print (according to George R. Sansoucy, senior vice president and managing director for print and convergence at Initiative in New York, a leading media agency owned by the Interpublic Group of Companies.)

Disclosure: A GRID Media client is part of Newhouse News Service, which is owned by the same parent company as Conde Nast. But other than some nice discounts we get on subscriptions, there's no connection.

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Thursday, February 03, 2005

Dangerous Quote of the Day 

Big Guns Debate Business Model at M&A Conference

Dangerous quote of the day: "Ancillary is now central to our business," says McCurdy. "Print remains vital, but the (non-print products) are what drive transactions."

I don't know Charles McCurdy, except by reputation, and I wasn't at the DeSilva Phillips conference, so I'm not clear on the full context of this quote. But something that's ancillary can't be central to your business--it's ancillary.

Perhaps the problem is in thinking about print vs. non-print, as opposed to the core driver of what we in media do, which is to build an audience around a common interest (charging them money and/or time for their participation in the community) and then to sell access to marketers who want to sell their products or service to the community. That seems pretty medium-neutral. And it's more focused on the value of the community we create, rather then the array of 'core' products and 'ancillaries' we produce.

I continue to worry about the temptations of ancillaries. (See my screed on b2b trendiness.) We need to be careful not to forget the central reasons why audiences gather around our media, because we might just end up losing them, no matter how many highly profitable ancillaries we produce for the short term.

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Ah, The Wonderful Reorg 

A Big Company Tries To Go Entrepreneurial

The current issue of Folio: contains a lot of stuff that irks me and makes me think. Great work, Tony! It's nice to see Folio: back from its brief flirtation with trying to be min Magazine(which I helped create--self-aggrandizing self-advertisement!).


Folio: contains a couple of pieces on reorganizations. In my career, I've subjected my teams to a few reorganizations. Some were meant to integrate a variety of media properties better, but most were targeted at flattening the structure, and getting closer to customers.

What I've learned: most reorganizations fail, because they shift positions and reporting responsibility, but don't change the culture either of the company, or of the holders of positions in the various org chart boxes.

I advise, before reorganizing--and causing confusion, annoyance, revolt and petty battles for power--that you try this: flatten your structure by changing what you do and what you expect from your management team (their job descriptions and their evaluation criteria). Eliminate as many useless meetings and reports as possible, and require your managers to use that extra time to get out into the market and meet their customers (yes, readers too!). If you can get that to happen, your organization will naturally flatten, and your leaders will set an example for everyone who works for them. You'll probably generate more business, too, if your leaders know how to listen to and create solutions for customers.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Junk Buy? 

Wiegers Capital Management buys Hart Publications

This issue of Folio contains a few takes on some of the 'top deals of 2004.' Each deal features a comment, evidently from an investment banker or expert--it's not really clear in the web version. So check out the story on Hart Publications, which is headed by my friend and former colleague, Rich Eichler (pictured).

After a nice little article on how Rich and his team saved Hart, and its employees, by getting the business sold to a group of investors who won't rape and pillage it, the comment is: "This is a junk buy."

What 'expert' said that? Hart's properties, which serve the oil and gas market, are good. The management team is stellar. Eichler is a visionary, who makes great moves that improve his products and serve his customers better. And he took care of his people.

Let's have more 'junk' like that, folks. And less junk thinking from the numbers guys. Leave the uninformed snarkiness to us blogger-types.

See the whole feature here.

And a shout out to Paul Conley's fine b2b blog for bringing the article, and its poor html coding, to my attention.

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Hey, This Blogging Thing Works! 

Couple of nice, thoughtful comments to some of the posts on this site. See here and here. Scroll to the bottom.

Feel free to add to the conversation. You can post a comment to anything here, or email me your thoughts.

Here's to a better b2b media world!

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Blink and Wonk 

SXSW Interactive Festival Press Release

Two of my favorite writers will be at the SXSW Interactive Festival: Malcolm Gladwell (pictured) and Wonkette's Ana Marie Cox. Gladwell's new book, Blink, is a worthwhile read for anyone who sells anything--and not for the reasons you'd think. Check it out for an interesting meditation on first impressions, snap judgements, bias and instant decisionmaking.

And Wonkette's required reading for those of us within spittin' distance of the Beltway. See link at right.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Perils of Debt 

Media companies more wary about leverage

If you're a loyal reader of this blog--and after the few weeks we've been posting, who isn't?--you know how we feel about debt in b2b media companies. I've worked for highly leveraged companies where our annual EBITDA exceeded our debt service by just a hair--and every year was a struggle to squeeze every last penny down to the bottomline. BtoB's article, linked above, contains some useful thinking about debt, especially from Cam Bishop.

See also my post on "What's wrong with b2b media," linked to the right.

Some debt is good if it's deployed to advance the business and make sound acquisitions or launch new products and services.

How much debt is too much debt? When the amount of debt makes b2b media executives develop strategies and tactics because of the debt.

If you've been trimming an extra half percent of expenses from your properties because of debt, it's time to develop a plan to refinance or retire the debt. In my experience, once you're on the slippery slope of debt-centered management, it's nearly impossible to succeed. You cut your people and your product quality, your revenues drop, and you cut further, because you've got to make the number. And you eventually close up shop, or sell to someone.

I believe in maximizing the profitability of b2b media, but maximizing should include looking at the total profitability of the media property over a period of time, not just when the next debt payments are due.

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Client News: Succession Planning 

CEO Succession Planning: A New Survey from Directors & Boards

One of our clients, Directors & Boards, has a great survey (if I do say so myself) on CEO Succession Planning in publicly-held corporations. Full results of the survey will be available in March from the Directors & Boards website and in a special single-topic Boardroom Briefing produced by the magazine and the major corporate governance association in the U.S, the NACD.

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The Joy of Spam 

The New York Times > Technology > Law Barring Junk E-Mail Allows a Flood Instead

Interesting article from today's New York Times on the continued rise in spam even after (or because of?) CAN SPAM. A few things jump out: who's not using spam filters these days? Who's not using firewalls to protect their computers from "zombifaction?" And who the heck are those 2,000 people buying $50 herbal supplements in response to spam?

Of course, spam has hurt b2b. We run several opt-in e-newsletters, which are routinely trapped in spam filters. The filters make subscribing hard, since the confirmation email also gets trapped in the filter.

We'll be migrating those e-newsletters over time to blog formats, and teaching our customers how to use newsreaders (or My Yahoo, as I do).

Perhaps someone will figure out an interesting business in providing a "verisign" for email addresses--a preconfirmed, researched and monitored email address, with a certificate which allows ISPs to accept email from that address? I'd pay money for such a certification.

UPDATE: See this piece from the Cato Institute almost two years ago.

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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Drinking Joe, Watching Al Jazeera 

brandchannel.com Brand Rankings by Impact 2004 Readers Choice Awards 2004 Global Brands branding and marketing portal

According to a survey conducted by brandchannel (of 1,984 brandchannel readers from 75 countries), the top 5 global brands in terms of the most impact on the survey respondents' lives in 2004, whether negative or positive, were:

1. Apple
2. Google
3. Ikea
4. Starbucks
5. Al Jazeera

Click the link above to see the full analysis. Also check out this link for the complete brand list for 2004, and comparisons to the last three years.

And be sure to read the methodology, at the bottom of the main page. Certainly not a scientific study, but interesting results nonetheless. Note this key demographic: "[Our respondents] are above average in intelligence, curiosity, good looks, taste, charm." Can't beat that.

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Technology and How We Write 

The New York Times > Books > Sunday Book Review > Essay: Tool for Thought

Nice essay in the Sunday Times on the impact of associative indexing programs on the writing process.

I'm not sure I agree that word processors have had a "less than revolutionary" impact, though. They've certainly changed the way I write. Back in the old days, when I thought the electric typewriter with an auto-whiteout key was the height of technology, I was still forced to outline my thoughts, and structure my paragraphs and sentences before commiting them to the page. The word processor makes it easier to get thoughts down quickly--full sentences, fragments. Whether that's good or bad, I don't know. But prior to word processing, I spent more time in planning and preparation; now I spend more time in editing and restructuring.

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