Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Future of B2B Media

This survey reports on the US b2b sector. It's not without optimism with a surprising number of CEOs prediciting revenue increases this year. Print is declining as a proportion of total revenue, events and online are up. However one CEO says,

"“We’ve seen slow customer acceptance of Internet marketing/advertising,”

This is a key issue for b2b online players. Building traffic is relatively straight forward but in most b2b sectors advertisers are lagging behind their customers in recognising the importance of the web. Coached over many years to believe in the controlled ciruclation model, advertisers are struggling to understand why they should feel confident that their customers are users of industry web sites. Audience metrics are too simplistic often being little more than a page impression count. Here in the UK our websites are often attracting audiences from around the world and from many parts of the value chain. Advertisers are geared up to promote to the UK buyer in one part of the value chain. When an advertiser books a campaign on a b2b website how does he know how much of the audience is relevant. In the most advanced markets (prinicpally IT) advertisers and agencies are beginning to demand that they only pay for UK IP addresses. They are also moving from a CPM model to a CTR model. Both issues create challenges for publishers. The headline audience stats are overstating the reach into the UK decision making community and CTR is low and in some sectors falling.

The b2b industry has always been about validated lead generation rather than simple audience numbers (remember reader enquiry cards?) but we have not yet created a commonly understood model for how to do this in online.

There are a number of things that must be done;

1) Invest in research that valildates the quality of the online audience.
2) Create new innovative and effective online inventory that converts the audience into effective sales leads for advertisers
3) Invent ways to recapture the ability for advertisers to extract brand development benefits from their advertising rather than just clicks.
4) Get a better understanding of how users make decisions and create tools that aid the decsion making process as well as simply providing news and information.

One of the interesting solutions to this problem is vertical search - a subject around which there is a lot of heat and not a lot of light. Convera are offering a method for publishers to quickly build vertical search solutions and have a number of UK clients incluing CMP and Centaur. Fast, the Microsoft owned solution for enterprise search has some installations in vertical search, most notably Zibb owned by Reed, and Nexus has a deal with Autonomy on a product called Foundography. It's early days for all these solutions but they could be the beginning of a new model which we will follow with interest

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