It's no surprise—today most Connectiv members describe themselves as “business media” companies. But five years from now, most say “business information services” will be a better descriptor, according to the recent Connectiv 2015 Business Outlook Census.
That’s not just semantic posturing in an effort to get away from the market challenges associated with ad-driven media. Connectiv members report more than seven different business lines classified as “information services,” including research, paid information, content licensing, paid newsletters, subscription websites, data-driven workflows and downloadable content.
And while more B2B publishers are starting to see themselves as events companies supported by media, many see information services as having the long-term potential to rival or even eclipse events as value-drivers. “Events will still be a big focus for us going forward, but we think the biggest opportunity by far is in the area of research and information services,” Kollin Stagnito, CEO of the newly combined Stagnito/Edgell, told Connectiv. “I would like to see that be a third of our business. The value that we bring to customers is completely transformed by our research and information capabilities. It’s helpful to our research customers and to our general audience because much of this research finds its way into our brands and is presented at our events.”
At the upcoming Connectiv Executiv Summit on May 12, a panel called "Pivot: What Called the Shift from Business Media to Business Information Really Means," will feature three Connectiv members describing the development of their business information services -- and how it cuts across their organization. The panel will include Scott Mozarzky, president of cross platform businesses at Bloomberg BNA (and a former UBM executive); Andrew Neblett, the newly named president of ALM Intelligence (and a former Thomson Reuters executive); and Ward Downing, president of Winsight Media (formerly CSP Business Media).
While Bloomberg is one of the biggest information services providers and ALM has been offering licensed services for years, Winsight is representative of many b2b publishers just now acting on the opportunity. Last year the company kicked off “Route 100,” a growth plan that will drive it to $100 million in total revenue. At the time, CEO Mike Wood told Connectiv that the plan would change the revenue mix from 45 percent print, 35 percent events, 15 percent digital and under 5 percent for information services to events and information services becoming its two largest business lines (accounting for 35 percent and 24 percent of total revenue, respectively).
That plan got a shot in the arm last fall, when Winsight bought Technomic, a provider of primary and secondary market information to the food industry. Technomic ups Winsight’s data game in three ways:
1. Custom consulting and advisory for the food service market
2. Syndicated market research studies
3. Proprietary databases, including Digital Resource Library that profiles companies in the food service industry; MenuMonitor, which enables Winsight to extrapolate data such as regional price differentiation, and Consumer Brand Metrics.
“What’s exciting about these database products is that in addition to very high renewal rates, a portion of the customer base is operators and not just the same companies who already buy traditional media,” says Downing. “But the real value isn’t just that we have high renewal rates for products and services that are more resistant to downturns (than traditional media), it’s that we get high value content experts who can help build out the value of our media and events.”
How is Winsight using these new assets to improve the media business? One example is that in June, Winsight’s Restaurant Business will launch a new issue called the Restaurant Business and Technomic 500 that lists the the top 500 restaurant chains, alongside trends and profiles for specific restaurant categories. Much of the content for this issue will come from Technomic’s Digital Resource Library and will accompany a high-impact digital presence. While Winsight’s print business is more resilient than most, the Restaurant Business and Technomic 500 issue will be the magazine’s second largest issue of the year (mid-six figures in ad revenue), an impressive feat for a new issue. "Both operators and suppliers know this information is important and advertisers want to be in this issue (and online), … the combination of Technomic’s data and our distribution to the market is powerful," says Downing.
While acquisitions like Technomic are driving much of the shift from business media to business information across b2b media, Downing says that strategic launches are within the capabilities of almost any b2b publisher. “Most publishers could build something like the Digital Resource Library,” says Downing. “You gather information, essentially about the companies who make up the top tier of your audience and sell access to it to suppliers.”