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Friday, July 01, 2005

Advertising and Marketing as Conversation 

Consumers, Long the Targets, Become the Shapers of Campaigns

Interesting piece in today's NY Times on companies involving their customers in a conversation on new product choices.

Key grab (with two insights): When consumers vote overwhelmingly for a product or participate in its development, it is more likely the new item will sell well, said Michael D'Esopo, a senior partner at Lippincott Mercer, a design and brand identity firm that is a division of Mercer Inc.

A study at the Yale Center for Customer Insights found that people who are told that a product is popular will buy it over a competing product, said Ravi Dhar, a professor of marketing at the Yale School of Management and a director of the center.

"Customers say, 'Hey, if everyone liked it, it must be good,' " Mr. Dhar said. "It shifts people's preferences."


Something for b2b media execs to consider: can we provide marketers with a feedback loop that's more powerful than mere lead generation? Can we create a forum for market conversations in and around our products? It would be interesting to adapt a few of these consumer products tactics for the b2b arena.

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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Expanded Page Counts 

CFO Celebrates 20th Anniversary with Expanded Editorial Coverage and Redesign

In September, CFO magazine is investing in a redesign, the addition of new editorial sections and an expanded editorial page count, in celebration of its 20th anniversary.

It's refreshing to see a major b2b magazine putting money into more and better looking editorial. But that's The Economist Group for you.

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Nightmare e-Zine 

Cygnus Business Media Magazine Adopts E-Book Systems' Digital Flip(R) Technology For Its Online Publication

So there I was, checking out publishing-oriented press releases on Yahoo, when I came across the above linked piece, announcing that Cygnus' The CPA Technology Advisor was now available in an E-Book Systems digital format. I hadn't tried that particular e-magazine viewer before. And I won't be doing it again.

Here's my critique of the experience:

1) It's hard to find the e-zine on the magazine's website. In fact, it's hard to find anything on the home page. It's too busy.

2) The installation process for the E-Book Systems reader was a nightmare on my system. I was asked to install active-X controls, my firewall and spyware software kicked into high gear with warnings (which I sadly overrode), and then I was presented with an 8 meg download. In the interests of research, I allowed all this to populate on my computer. I can only imagine the hoops a reader would have to go through to install this on a corporate system, where users don't have the ability to override the firewall.

3) Once the e-zine was up and running, it was, for me, very difficult to navigate. If I used the "flip" page icon, sometimes the pages wouldn't flip. If I wasn't careful, and tried to flip a page in the vicinity of an ad, I found myself bounced over to the advertiser's website. Some pages took a long time to load (I've got a nice broadband connection, and shouldn't have these issues).

4) Finally, in frustration, I tried to exit the viewer. Clicking on the 'x' somehow only allowed me to shut down other programs I had open (email, web browser) until finally, the viewer consented to exit. It reminded me of the time a few years ago when my home page was hijacked by a piece of spyware.

5) I immmediately uninstalled the viewer software, and will now run a full spyware scan to get rid of whatever junk this thing left hidden on my system. I've also got to try to get rid of the software that the viewer installed in my system tray--which didn't go away with the uninstall.

6) Summary: difficult to install, difficult to navigate, suspicious population of spyware-like stuff. This is not the way to do an e-zine. At the very least, I hope it was inexpensive for Cygnus. But the price was way too high for this prospective reader.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

2005 Tabbies Winners Announced 

WINNERS ANNOUNCED FOR 2005 TABBIE AWARDS

Paul J. Heney, president of Cleveland-based Trade, Association and Business Publications International (TABPI), has announced the winners of the group's second editorial and design competition, "open to English language b2b publications worldwide, published at least quarterly."

There were nearly 700 entries. According to Paul: "Highlighting the Best Single Issue category -- the competition's most comprehensive -- are entries from U.K.-based Legal Business, U.S.-based Pensions & Investments, and New Zealand-based NZ Retail, which took the Gold, Silver, and Bronze awards respectively."

Click the link above to see more. Good job to the winners, and great job to TABPI for pulling together such an international b2b magazine competition (while all entries are English-language, there are more than 40 countries that can compete).

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A Kosher Press Release 

A few days ago, Penton announced the acquisition and co-location of the Kosher World Conference & Expo with its Natural Products Expo West. Not huge news, and I didn't blog it then. But I recently had a chance to look over the press release announcing the acquisition, and what I saw, I liked. Granted, it contains the usual string of self-congratulatory quotes.

But there's an addition: two quotes from kosher food distributors, and a quote from the Rabbinic administrator of the Kosher Information Bureau, lauding the deal.

These quotes lent a credibility to the transaction that I haven't seen often repeated in b2b media acquisition or launch announcements.

Congrats to my friend Mary Abood, and her corporate communications and investor relations team at Penton, on some fine work providing context to a transaction.

(Obligatory disclosure: I own some Penton stock, which has now risen enough for me to afford two cups of joe! Maybe soon, I'll be able to afford a chocolate croissant, as well.)

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

B2B Advertising to Drop Slightly in 2005 

2005 AD SPENDING TO INCREASE 3.4%

While overall ad spending is forecast to grow to $145.3 billion this year, TNS Media Intelligence projects that b2b magazine advertising will drop 0.9%.

That's interesting, given American Business Media's BIN report, which shows b2b publication revenues up 5.8% through April.

Either we're in for a precipitous drop in b2b advertising spending over the next few months, or TNS has its numbers wrong. And wrong numbers like that don't help the b2b advertising cause. Response, ABM?

UPDATE: BtoB covers the same story, but neglects to mention the forecast drop in b2b magazine advertising revenues. Hmm.

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Tom Rogers and TiVo: Multiple Points of View 

Tom Rogers, the former chairman and ceo of Primedia, and now the president and ceo of TiVo, certainly generates some strong feelings.

First, the (vaguely) positive side, from Rafat Ali. Grab: To succeed, TiVo has to move away from the idea of owning the hardware category, which is where Rogers comes in. He stresses in the press release the need to work with "multi-channel carriers, networks and advertisers."

See also this post. Grab: "If they were looking for someone who could generate deals and business arrangements, Tom's history suggests he's the right guy," said Tom Wolzien, a top media analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein.

Then the negative side, from Paul Conley (see bottom of post). Grab: People who witnessed the decline of Primedia on Rogers' watch may want to short some TiVo shares.

And from Rex Hammock: Grab: Let's hope one learns from ones mistakes.

TiVo has certainly revolutionized television watching in our home, and the TiVo model offers interesting lessons to all content providers (a combination of Google-like search, ease of programming, and user control over schedules). But whether Rogers can find a sustainable position for TiVo against other DVRs, and the nascent Windows Media Center, remains to be seen. TiVo, sadly, reminds me of Netscape, which had the coolest browser and the hottest technology, but which ultimately lost to different business models.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Bandwidth at Tradeshows 

Rich Westerfield and Tim Bourquin both tackle the issue of internet access and bandwidth at trade show and conference venues.

According to Rich, in many cities bandwidth availability will be more important than venue, and I agree. Grab:

So wireless needs to be everywhere, not just in some lobby or a couple of meeting rooms. Everywhere. And it needs to be fast. Lots and lots of available bandwidth ready on a moment's notice.

That also goes for cell repeaters. And power stations (why not charge a little money to allow people to power up their batteries in a secure environment--kind of like a coat check for cellphones, PDAs and laptops?) It was amazing to me how many dead spots McCormick Lakeside Center has. And how few places you could find a standard plug for a quick power up.

Venue owners need to think like their customers' customers.

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The Dan Quayle of Publishing? 

At McGraw-Hill, an Heir Takes Over and the Company Flourishes

Interesting article in today's NY Times about Terry McGraw and McGraw-Hill. McGraw has done an excellent job of diversifying the M-H portfolio, focusing on data businesses, and not getting caught up in dot.com-itis. And apparently no one thought he could do it.

Hmm. Here's a grab: In the 12 years since Mr. McGraw took over as president and chief executive officer of the McGraw-Hill Companies, the parent of Standard & Poor's, BusinessWeek magazine, trade publications and a leading educational publishing business, the company's stock has risen from $8.20 a share on Aug. 2, 1993, to $44 a share at Friday's close - a 437 percent increase.

Apparently, one of McGraw's great strengths is not listening to analysts:

Grab: "He did not get sucked into the malarkey we tried to push him to," said Lauren Rich Fine, who follows McGraw-Hill for Merrill Lynch. "He has been the least intimidated by the Internet and the most willing to embrace it as an improved customer delivery channel."

And he continues to resist them: Critics also say Mr. McGraw has been indecisive about selling - or building up - McGraw-Hill's broadcasting unit, which owns four television stations.

"They do $120 million in revenues and 40 percent in cash flow," he said. "Everybody should be so lucky to have such a big bag of cash. Why sell them for the sake of some strategic clarity of some analyst?"


An interesting view of a company that, while public, has managed to take the long view. I thought their acquisition of J.D. Power and Associates was brilliant and, if leveraged properly, will add new ways to make money from the data and information strengths of this company.

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