B2B Publishers At Dawn: The Battle To Stay Relevant

B2B Publishers At Dawn: The Battle To Stay Relevant

Patrick Angell is Executive Director of the Information Industry Network (the European Division of the SIIA).

Ebullient, confident and driven, Patrick Angell has always been in the business of making money from selling information to people.  His career started in earnest at Wolters Kluwer where he spent a decade learning the ropes of information publishing and the transition to digital content (“I saw the painful shift from ring-binders to floppy disks to CD-roms”). After that, the best part of the last decade was spent innovating at various EMAP companies: at Glenigan, Angell took their construction industry intelligence into new markets through developing a bespoke marketing services outfit as well as new digital services (“We moved from providing basic sales leads into a high-value data service).

He moved on to head up EMAP’s BRAD Insight business which he moved from being print-based to a digital information service, before finally tinkering with political lobbying information at DeHavilland; leading their European launch and revamping their online platform.

JONNY ROSE: So, what’s happening in the world of B2B media right now?

PATRICK ANGELL:  The sector – at its very broadest – can be broken into two types: B2B information services companies that research, collect and make sense of data and then publish it to an audience that use it for commercial decision-making, add it to their workflow or embed it into other tools, and B2B media companies , which were once traditional print publishers, but who have now become brands with multi-platform and multiple offerings including print, digital, mobile, events and data offering.

The watchword across both types right now is “convergence”.  Publishers are moving into the information game and vice versa. For example, Centaur went on an acquisition spree where they’ve bought companies like Econsultancy and Profile Group. Profile Group, for example, produce a digital data service called Year Ahead which is an event database used by marketing planners to prepare for marketing events throughout the year–

ROSE: [ interrupts ] Reed Business Information are another good example of that aren’t they? They used to be Reed Business Publishing before it became Reed Business Information.

ANGELL: Yeah – I was at a PPA event last year and RBI’s current CEO, Dominic Feltham, was explaining that their strategy has been to sell off brands which don’t have a high-value data opportunity associated with them at the core, and to keep those titles around which they can build premium data products.

ROSE: What’s an example of that?

ANGELL: Well, in RBI’s case: they had a couple of print titles (Flight International and Air Business) under the Flight Global banner –  which were heavily dependent upon advertising revenue, but also had large subscription bases with a focus on the aviation industry. RBI later acquired Ascend which provides high value data, information and insight for the global aviation including flight specification data on individual aircraft and aircraft operators.

The audiences overlap and RBI is able to use Flight Global as almost like a traditional print e ntrée and upsell their Ascend data products.

Another example is Estates Gazette which now also has EGi - it’s commercial property market data company.

ROSE: Any differences between business media readers and consumer audiences?

ANGELL: They share some characteristics – particularly how they consume content. In both cases, mobile is becoming increasingly important to the reading and accessibility experience.

The business media audiences actually need to consume content more for decision-making, competitive insight and lead generation. They’re using content at all times throughout the working day to make informed commercial judgments. By contrast, the consumer often reads from an emotional perspective whether for taste or entertainment and can be swayed by fads and fashion  so can drop in and out of brands.

ROSE: How has the internet changed the control on information by business media?

ANGELL: Back in the print world, traditional media was the fiefdom of the Editor-in-Chief. The E-i-C would say, “I know what the market wants – here’s what we should be writing about”. And that’s all readers would have to go on. The internet has changed everything: information is more freely available and editors have had to adapt to that.

In particular, this has meant they have to use more insight to understand what their audience wants and they have been forced to get more involved with technologies that can deliver these insights

ROSE: Content marketing is all about ‘utility’: being helpful to the reader and so is business publishing. Have you seen any convincing overlap between the content produced by consumer publishing and business publishers?

ANGELL: Not really. B2B publishing is supposed to be  impartial , independent and market-wide . Business readers are interested in accurate information that is going to help them do their job better, not promotional ‘puff’.Companies like Tesco and Sainsbury’s are great at providing useful lifestyle content for their customers. But it’s not impartial: they ultimately want you to use their products. If these consumer companies started providing retail news or comparison reviews between their products and a rival – you’d find it hard to believe what was being presented to you is actually the whole truth.The definition of “utility” with regards to content marketing changes depending on whether you’re talking about the reader in the capacity of their day job (business) or outside of work (lifestyle).

ROSE: Finally, what’s the biggest challenge for business media companies?

ANGELL:  Ad revenue is plummeting whilst their cost base are not. Alongside this they have to know how to make digital products and keep abreast of the new technologies that enable this. Not only that, but they also need to know how to make digital products that their customers want . In some cases the question becomes does a B2B content business become a technology company rather than a publisher – especially with nimble start-ups disrupting the established order and taking market share.Business publications also have to battle to stay relevant to their readership who are really, really sharp and often have decades of domain expertise. The pressure on the publisher is to know more than their readers before their readers want to know about it and be able to serve it to them.

Originally published on Idio's Blog