Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Vanity in Business to Business

Just for fun...

Two nuggets from my blog log. First, the wierdest search term used to stumble upon this site,

"sex porn business media".

What on earth was going on in this persons head?

My favourite past time (actually its my seventh favourite, the top five being far to personal to reveal here and the remaining one is too boring) is to see which names of the great and good of business media crop up most often in searches. If the search string starts with a name of a person and then the company name I assume its a vanity search. If it starts with the company name I assume it isn't. Anyway, on this slightly flakey premise I can tell you who is the vainest exec in business media.

I am not going to embarrass the poor demented soul save to say that, you know who you are. (clue: its a fairly senior figure based in Sutton Surrey and I don't think we have ever written about him).

Anyone prepared to own up? No I thought not. LOL.

Why b2b online advertising isn't working

Research published by the AOP claims that business to business web sites are the best place to stick your ads because decision makers use them a lot.

The PPA claims the same thing for business magazines. Who is lying?

You don't need to do research to intuitively work out that business readers have gone online at the expense of business magazine readership. Strangely the advertisers haven't followed as enthusiastically. Why?

1) A lot of business mag advertising was driven by seeing a competitors ad in the industry bible. Covering your competitor by matching their advertsing was a wise defensive approach. Today, a marketing director may not even notice where and when his competitors advertise on the web. Result - not much advertising. Solution - ad monitoring of b2b web sites. Now theres a business opportunity for someone.

2) We trained advertisers to expect certainty from cirulation management. We identified the top 20% of decision makers, persuaded them to request a copy of our magazine and then got the advertsisers to buy the idea that there message was seen by all the right people with no wastage. In the on line world most b2b websites don't know who their audience is. It's probably mostly the right people, but advertisers are sceptical.

3) On line ad inventory is poorly optimised for effectiveness. Marketing managers don't want advertising or even clicks- they want leads they can convert in to sales. The two are not necessarily the same.

4) B2B teams don't understand what they are selling.

5) Many trade advertisers wouldn't know what to do with an ad click if they got one. Until the potential advertisers develop a sophisticated trade web marketing strategy they will never get the habit of online advertising.

6) Online ad rates are too low (partly as a consequence of al the above) to support a compelling online edit strategy. To date b2b on line content has been subsidised by offline profits. As these profits dwindle we will need to solve the the conundrum of how to make the b2b business model work on its own.

Get Rich Blogging

Those nice people at one of the blogging companies (I am not going to say who they are - their cynical ploy does not deserve recognition) are offering redundant journalists a limited free go using their blogging tool. (It's not Blogger - the service that drives this site). They claim that this is a way for journos to make a living in a post employment world.

Yeah right. Lets inagine you start a blog and take ads from google (you won't want to sell ads yourself I'll wager.) If you get a net yield from Google of £5/000 page impressions, I'd say your were doing very well indeed. To make £25000 a year - hardly an extravagent income would require you to generate around 1/2 a million page impressions a month. I have been wrting this blog for two years. I'll admit I don't pay it a lot of attention in terms of posting frequency or site taxonomy, but hey - I do what I can. I earn nothing from this site and have no expectations of doing so. It is inconceivable that my traffic would ever reach 500,000.

There is nothing wriong with blogging. Its an important part of the media mix. For all its failings readers seem to value the service, even this one - but money making it hardly ever is - at least not in any substantive way. I have no problem with blog services offering a deal to out of work hacks - but please don't dress it up as some kind of grand gesture that will pay peoples mortgages. Ok oK , i know you want the link. Its here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wine oh wine oh wine

Last week William Reed announced the purchase of trade wine mag Harpers from Nexus. There are not too many mag deals getting done right now, but Harpers is a well known brand, has a paid subs base and is a neat fit with the WR stable.

Will WR work out how to convert this into an online subs business?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

UBM and RBI News

UBM reports in an interim statement that it has culled 300 jobs and revenues, in print are falling fast. Its building division will see millions wiped off its profit.

In the round thought United reckons it will meet its forecasts but as we have noted before, the trade show business is still benefiting from the forward sales made before the crunch. It is going to get much harder in the coming months I would judge

Meanwhile Gerard Van Der Aast the CEO of RBI worldwide has fallen on his sword amid falling revenues at up for sale RBI. Keith Jones gets the big job -at least until the sale process completes - or doesn't as might well be the case.
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Friday, November 14, 2008

Damn it. We were right.

Could we have a day off from the bad news? EMAP inform, the bit that does Local Government Chronicle and Drapers has announced 40 redundancies.

Meanwhile Centaur reports its revenues have slumped and its share price slumps in harmony to an all time low of 46p - less than half its float price five years ago.

Everybody is now rushing around like headless chickens trying to make it right. But why, we are entitled to ask as shareholders and employees, has it taken so long to wake up and smell the coffee. I have been accused by some correspondents and readers of this blog of being a pessimist. Actually I am not. It just makes me mad as hell that we have left this all so late. We loyal readers of BMB, have seen it coming for two years. But it is not too late. Radical and innovative steps will still pay off. But please don't do the obvious. There was a story yesterday (forgive me I have lost the link) saying that Conde Naste were cutting digital costs to defend print. Duh!

If anybody in B2B thinks thats a good idea send out for the club revolver and do the honourable thing.
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Thursday, November 13, 2008

B2b and the dangerous dogs

In a very short period of time, Haymarket (today) CMP, Incisive and others have announced job cuts. Haymarket are also introducing a pay freeze and cutting company car expenditure. A couple of magazines are being closed and in a panic converted to online only brands.

You won't find this blog criticising companies in b2b for taking decisive action but the lesson for the next downturn is that it would be have been better to do this earlier. It is almost as if they have been surprised by the downturn. Now, I know the banking crisis has made things worse, but surely those who run b2b have seen this coming for a while. I know some of them read this blog so they can't say they weren't warned.

The problem with taking decisive action in a crisis is you tend to make a hash of it. Just the same as government politicians do when there is public hullabaloo. Remember the dangerous dogs act? How much better to have a road map for dealing with the systemic changes in our industry and for managing our way out of a decline that began at least eight years ago. Dangerous dogs could have been dealt with before the media circus got hold of the issue and a better act would have followed. Instead politicians only deal with issues of the day, not issues of strategy. We deal with the shambles of Haringey social services, not when it becomes a shambles but when a child dies.

Anyway we must be grateful that b2b media companies aren't run by retired political folk who would make that kind of mistake. Oh. I see.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Glass Half Full at RBI

The Telegraph reports that the RBI deal delay means that Reed Elsevier will have to rethink its financing of the Choicepoint deal which was funded by debt, in part to be paid off by the sale of RBI.

All very high finance. But the more interesting throw away in the piece is that estimates of the value of RBI have fallen to a range of £650m to £850m - the low range now being half - yes half of the original price expectation. Remember, RBI is a business that last year made around £150m of profit. It has come to something if the biggest and most succesful business publishing company in the world is only worth 4 times last years earnings.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

EMAP Giving It all Away

The old EMAP b2b business has announced that its Inform group is to abandon paid infomation (subs) from its web sites. I think we can assume that the revenue is modest to say the least. No one is giving up meaningful revenues in the current climate.

David Gilbertson, CEO argues that he has to give his digital advertisers what they want. Mmm. I suspect this is a bunch of not wildly succesful sites where another throw of the dice on the ad model is a hope not a promise. We all know that buulding meaningful ad revenue on line is tough. Some have succeeded - but not many. Does anybody out there know if this is real strategy from EMAP, or is it just that the information sales model isn't working on some sites so they think they had better try the ad model?

Monday, November 10, 2008

And then there were two....

Apollo has pulled out of the RBI auction leaving just two runners in the race. The heat is fast vanishing from this auction. The double whammy of worsening trading and the difficulty of putting debt finance in place is cooling the deal rapidly.

The price will keep falling (we would be surprised if the deal gets done at more than £800m if it gets done at all.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

More Bad News From Huveaux

Huveaux is coming to terms with the cancelation of SATS and the impact on their education business. The Chairman has gone. Can Gerry Murray, the CEO survive when every announcement from Huveaux is more bad news and under perfromance. It is not that the trading is difficult, thats true for all but rather that the business seems unable to manage city expectations.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

CMP Demolishing some Building

CMP has started to cull jobs from its building division as the downturn hurts revenues. With 400 staff in the building group this is likely to be at least 40 posts an insider speculated. Further evidence if we needed it that its a bloodbath out there.

Reed and Informa

Crispin Davis, CEO of Reed Elsevier is due to retire next year when he has completed the sale of RBI (he hopes!). He is to be replaced by Bob the Builder.

Knowing something about scientific and technical media clearly not a neceessary qualification of the job. We wish him luck.

Meanwhile, some are speculating about how tight things are at Informa. With huge debt and tight bank covenants, a liekly weakening in the conference sector, it is likely that the the star division will be Datamonitor. Expect cash conservation actions throughout Informa as senior managers do all they can to ensure they don't breach those pesky covenants.