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Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Lesson in Blogging 

There's an interesting lesson in blogging (and dealing with the blogosphere) in this Inc. piece profiling a small food business whose blog is the work of a fictional character. The response from the blogosphere was swift: "Horrible. Stupid. Insane. Worthless. Ineffective," wrote one person. "The ultimate in false advertising."

The owner of the business turned the situation around:

[She] began writing to the commentators. She kept the tone cool and respectful, and explained what GourmetStation was trying to accomplish with its blog. That led even some of its most bitter critics to take a second look at the site and even change their minds, says Bloomberg. "I may have overreacted and not understood the entire idea of this particular fictional character," admitted one.

UPDATE: Rex Hammock points to a post from BusinessWeek's Steven Baker on why journalists should blog.

Grab from Baker:

Many journalists view the blog world as threatening. To a certain degree, they're right. It's virtually lawless and has plenty of flamers, spammers, wingnuts and MSM loathers. In other words, it's much like the outside world. But I'd say that journalists who don't venture into this world are more vulnerable, not less. If they get into trouble, they have few allies outside their own guild. And if they're not blogging, good chance they won't hear the angry voices til they grow into a storm.




Via BusinessMedia.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

UBM, M-H Financials...and Thoughts on China 

A few relevant financial results announcements.

United Business Media, owner of the various CMP Media properties, turned in a stellar 25% increase in revenues and profits for the first six months of 2006. This growth was driven primarily by the company's acquisition strategy, which it has decided to accelerate. (Underlying revenue--without the effect of acquisitions--was up 3.2%, but underlying operating income dropped 2.2%).

McGraw Hill posted a 13% increase in second quarter profits. Says MarketWatch: "Revenue for the business-to-business group rose 2.1%. The group includes J.D. Power and Associates, BusinessWeek, construction, energy products and services, and Aviation Week. Growth in information products and services helped offset declines in advertising at the business-to-business group."

Interestingly, Business Week's global edition saw ad pages decline nearly 12%, driven by the shutdown of its Euro and Asian editions. The folks at United Business Media saw different results, especially in Asia, where underlying revenues and profits were up more than 8%, "driven principally by the growth of the exhibitions in Hong Kong, China and Japan."

As my fellow blogger Paul Woodward recently pointed out, newspaper and magazine ad revenues have declined in China. Business Week seems to have encountered this phenomenon; UBM's CMP Asia division is growing because of trade shows, not print ads.

American Business Media plans to take a group of b2b media execs to China in October. That's a good move, since the China market has never been an easy one, and our US B2B tendency to start with print, and then line extend to events and online, doesn't seem to work well on that side of the Pacific. (I hope ABM will have Hong Kong-based Paul Woodward and Berlin-based Hugo Martin speak to its China junkateers. Both have extensive experience with the market.)

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

VNU Restructuring Imminent: Folio: 

Sources: Announcement Soon On VNU Restructuring

Folio: is reporting that "VNU could be just days away from making some major restructuring announcements for its domestic and international operations..."

A lot of interesting insight in this piece (click the link, above), especially related to Dutch law and the terms of the sales contract, as well as some speculation about VNU Business Media:

Changes also are in store for the company’s publishing business, VNU Business Media....One source says VNU is exploring how it can use people more efficiently and that VNU Business CEO Michael Marchesano, who is the chairman of American Business Media’s executive committee, might be asked to play a bigger role in the corporation.

I continue to wonder where Bob Krakoff will fit into all of this.

See also Folio:'s consistently excellent M&A coverage:

The Best Deal Market Ever?

More B-to-B Publishers on the Block: Highline Media and Pfingsten Publishing

Cygnus Deal May Not Cover What It Paid For Company and Subsequent Add-ons

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Donaton: Folding the WSJ Print Edition 

Imagining the Day When the WSJ Print Edition Folds

Scott Donaton is a smart guy.

Grab: ...I was hit with the vision of Dow Jones emerging from this process [of "reassess(ing) the ways it delivers news across all its print and online properties] with the bold and aggressive decision to make The Journal the first major newspaper to convert fully to a digital model.

and

...certain forms of media that are currently print-based, particularly daily newspapers, must explore the possibility that there are more reader-friendly and cost-efficient ways to produce and distribute their content....It's still surprisingly difficult to get traditional media executives to admit this. But their resistance seems based on an emotional attachment to ink on paper, a deeply held -- if largely indefensible -- sense that a newspaper's soul is inextricably linked to its format.

Via IWantMedia.

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The Cover as Holy Ground? 

A few days ago, I posted on the Wall Street Journal's decision to accept advertising on its front page. And predictably, the issue of cover advertising was a topic of conversation at the ASBPE national conference.

Among the comments I heard at the conference:

"The cover is holy ground."

"We (editors) don't have a lot of say. You can leave, or stay involved in what you're doing."

"Our VP says the business has changed. I want to kick him in the pants, but he's right, the business has changed."

"What's the role of the cover? How does an ad get people to open the book?"

I continue to believe this is a non-issue. B2B tabloids have long chosen to run ad space on their covers. (See the example here, provided by Doug Shore, who commented to this blog that "if you go back into the archives of old b-to-b publications, you will find cover advertising to be relatively common. The concept is new and controversial only to those who have never seen it before." (See also Rex Hammock's comments, using the same link.)

And standard size books have taken advantage of french gates, gatefolds, bellybands and other forms of cover advertising, including false covers. (Our clients, Directors & Boards and Family Business, both of which are delivered in a polybag, allow some advertising on the carrier sheet, but this carrier sheet rests over cover 4, not cover 1).

I think the best answer is one I heard during the conference--as long as the magazine is consistent in its use of advertising on or around the cover, it should be okay. But a magazine that slips in a cover ad--say, a product image provided by an advertiser--among issues that don't feature an ad or product shot, are doing their readers and themselves a disservice.

UPDATE: DM News weighs in with a cogent editorial, via IWantMedia.

Grab:

These decisions...are a sacrilege to some, common sense to others and inevitable to those who made them. The announcements came the same week that Google said second-quarter earnings doubled year over year. The demand for buying keywords in Google’s AdWords and AdSense programs is seemingly insatiable. Google now accounts for almost one-fourth of all online income. Frightening. Only a silly move on its part — hubris or spreading itself too thin — can bring this company down.

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The ROI of Integrity 

One of the better sessions I attended at the ASBPE national conference addressed the issue of editorial ethics and integrity--or to say this another way, how to avoid caving to pressure from publishers and advertisers. ASBPE recently published its revised code of ethics, and I think it's generally good.

To my mind, ASBPE associate director Robin Sherman asked the big question: "What's the ROI of integrity? There's very little research into this area, and any research I've seen has been on the newspaper side of the business--but it's poor research." (This is an area that ABM should consider studying.)

For Rance Crain, the president of Crain Communications, the answer is simple: "Editorial excellence makes good business sense. Advertisers want readers, and readers who trust and are involved in our editorial pages will also be involved with our advertising. Forget ethics, editorial excellence is the best way to make money."

So far so good. But I'm a little disturbed that, in many editors' minds, the issue of ethics seems to fall squarely on publishers, salespeople and advertisers, and their insatiable demands to compromise the integrity of magazines. Sure, it happens, and far too often.

But the other side of the editorial ethics equation is equally important--and that's the ethics of serving an audience with the best possible information and analysis. Any magazine that's poorly researched and written, graphically poor, reliant on press releases, and generally not leading and shaping its market through its coverage, isn't being ethical. And there are probably as many of these types of magazines in B2B as there are magazines which sell their souls and credibility to advertisers.

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Investing in Our Editors 

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining friends and fellow bloggers Paul Conley and Martha Spizziri for a panel discussion on B2B blogging at the national conference of the American Society of Business Press Editors (ASBPE). A few days before, I attended the annual sales meeting for one of our clients. There were more attendees at the sales meeting than at ASBPE's annual conference, and the irony was not lost on me (that's a change.)

While more than 100 editors gathered in Chicago for two days of education and networking, I expected more--since ASBPE works hard to keep conference costs low. But even so, I'm sure budget issues and smaller editorial staffs with limited time for travel contributed to the turnout.

ASBPE has a thriving group of local chapters, which provide low cost, local events. But it seems to me that we publishers ought to be setting aside some more budget dollars to invest in our editors and their career development. Better educated editors, exposed to real world issues and best-in-class solutions, will pay off for us--and them.

For 2007, allocate some editorial dollars for ASBPE, or for any of Folio:'s excellent events. It's worth it.

By the way, the PowerPoint of my presentation, titled "The 15 Minute Case for B2B Blogging," can be found here. (It actually took me about 30 minutes to blather on, but I tried to convince the editors present that every editor, and every b2b magazine, should be blogging.)

UPDATE: See the comment thread to this post for some interesting conversation on my view that blogging is already part of an editor's job description, and the overall role of editors in the publishing food chain. Please add your views.

Also, see BtoB's coverage of Rance Crain's ASBPE keynote, where he asserts that "business journalists need to become 'marketers'...."

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