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Connectiv To Merge With Major B2B Publishing Associations

Editor’s note: The following is an announcement from Jeff Joseph, President of Connectiv parent SIIA; Meg Hargreaves, SIIA Board Chair; and Kevin Novak, Connectiv Board Chair. 

We hope that this email finds you and your organization in good health and steering to solid ground during this time of upheaval and transformation. We have seen Connectiv members move with impressive agility and originality in accelerating and shifting strategies and operations and we have been pleased to see strong response to Connectiv programs designed to help you navigate these turbulent times.

We are excited to announce change is coming to Connectiv as well. SIIA, the parent association of Connectiv, is pleased to announce the consolidation of ConnectivAssociation Media and Publishing and the Specialized Information Publishers Association into one newly branded association, designed to bring greater value to your membership while retaining the high value programming, content and networking opportunities that have long been hallmarks of each division. This change follows a vote and passage by the SIIA board of a streamlined FY21 budget (effective July 1) and a strategic plan framework that included both this merger and the elimination of two other separate divisions, ETIN and SSD.

The board moved with both strategic and financial considerations in mind as the organization seeks to shape a compelling future-focused value proposition, retain popular programs and conserve resources under a single leader, unified brand and updated website. These efforts were obviously accelerated following COVID-19, which has dealt the Association as well as our members difficult challenges around live events. We are confident this new streamlined and consolidated membership group will be the premier membership organization for the specialized publishing, content, and media community, as we convene, develop, educate and advocate for current and emerging leaders of an industry undergoing rapid and continuous change.

This important effort is not taking place in a vacuum. We have convened a working group consisting of board members and representatives from the three associations to help develop value-added programming, content and a governance and operating structure that provides myriad volunteer opportunities. As we move forward, your interests will continue to be well represented via a new advisory board, which we expect to announce in the coming weeks – along with the new association’s branding, staff leadership and additional volunteer opportunities for you.

Of course, we need and desire current and recent member input as we take the next steps toward building the new organization. To that end, we are working with Readex Research to conduct an online survey designed to probe on membership benefits, service gaps and needs. The insights gained from your survey participation will help ensure that SIIA continues to serve as a valuable resource to you and others in the media, content and publishing industry.

Kindly be on the lookout for a survey link from Readex this Thursday, August 13. The short survey can be completed in about 10-12 minutes, and your participation is greatly appreciated.

This letter is the first of regular updates you will receive throughout August discussing the changes and our new path forward. On August 31, we will hold a live webinar providing an update, further describing the rationale and strategy, and taking your questions. FAQs, which may answer other questions, are now available on the SIIA website.

As our members have long recognized, SIIA operates at a pivotal and difficult juncture for trade associations, exacerbated by the pandemic. We believe this consolidated approach sets a strong foundation to launch a new division, poised for the growth, serving both for-profit and non-profit entities. We hope you will share our excitement as the vision takes shape.

Please feel free to reach out to Jeff or SIIA staff with your questions, comments, or concerns. We greatly welcome and value your input as we move forward. And please let us know if you wish to opt out of future communications on this matter.

Jeff Joseph
President
SIIA

Meg Hargreaves
Chair
SIIA

Kevin Novak
Chair
Connectiv

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Behind Questex’s New ‘Modern’ Information Model: Combining Content, Data and Events to Go to Market Faster

Editor’s Note: Join Paul Miller at our virtual Business Information & Media Summit on Dec. 2 for a look at The New Go-to-Market Strategy: How Questex Launches Products Faster, Better and More Profitably. Join the discussion as Paul shows how Questex aligned internal assets to create a more efficient structure and leverages data to drive the entire process. Register here. 

In June, Questex announced the creation of a “modern” information services model that leverages audience data to tie content and events closer together to create a year-round customer engagement framework.

And as publishers scramble to make up for lost event revenue amidst the pandemic, the new approach also gives Questex the ability to launch new products and go-to-market at accelerated rates (think virtual events being produced over the course of a few weeks, rather than a full year, as with a live event).

Questex debuted the new approach with its Fierce Life Sciences group, aligning the Fierce content business with ExL Events, a Questex division acquired in 2016 that produces events in similar markets such as life sciences, pharma and healthcare, but until recently had operated as a separate business from Fierce.

Tying events more closely to digital isn’t a new idea but one that hasn’t been well executed, according to Questex CEO Paul Miller [pictured]. “On a personal level, we’ve been talking about this for many years—how we combine different types of content and data and use learnings from that to bring together the community,” he adds. “We’ve almost gotten there a couple times in our past lives but not quite.”

 

Miller points to live events tacking on an online directory or virtual floor plan. “There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s not a real translation. Those of us coming from a digital background say, we’ve got all this data on content consumption, wouldn’t it be great if we use that to pull together conference programs around what’s trending.”

The Immediate Payoff

The new approach paid dividends almost immediately as Questex shifted to virtual events, with Fierce and ExL coming together to produce the Virtual Clinical Trials Online on April 22-23. The virtual event attracted over 2,000 registrants with 50 percent generated by the FiercePharma content websites. The sponsors saw over 600 booth visits and there were 2,800 downloads of content providing strong sales leads for the vendors.

“For the first time, we had complete collaboration between ExL and the Fierce team based on content, speaker recruitment and reporting on what’s going on at the event,” says Miller. “We’re thinking, let’s do things differently. If something is really trending, let’s change our conference program and launch it quickly, taking a couple weeks to plan rather than a full year.”

Elsewhere, Fierce is working with Arizona State U to launch a new virtual event in July for the education tech marketplace called Remote that will focus on how institutions are adapting higher education in the coronavirus era. The event already has “many thousands of registrants and high-level sponsors,” according to Miller.

With 70 percent of its revenue coming from live events prior to the pandemic, Questex hasn’t avoided a major revenue revision or the significant lay-offs that came with it.

But the Fierce group is up 20 percent year-over-year and there’s early evidence that the model can pay-off across the entire organization, including Questex increasing the overall number of webinars it produces (up from 199 in all of 2019 to 347 through May 2020), while its American Spa business capitalized on the CBD craze by launching a CBD-focused virtual event over the space of just four weeks, securing a quarter of a million dollars in sponsorships.

A Second Attempt at Reinventing B2B?

In many ways, the new Fierce approach borrows from Questex’s first attempt at reinventing the B2B media model with The Beauty Experience, a content and marketing platform that the company launched last fall for its beauty industry vertical that upended the “search and click” way of scrolling through websites by enabling users to choose specific content tags that they want to follow, which then serves up relevant content.

The idea was that the data produced by the feed and follow approach would help program events, identify prospects for sponsors and create opportunities to serve users beyond the events itself. Unfortunately, the Beauty Experience Event, scheduled for March 7, was one of the first to be canceled due to COVD-19.

“Beauty is a pro-sumer market and we learned a lot of lessons from that community, says Miller. “Social is really important there and we were able to get very good in the social world, seeing which keywords work and using artificial intelligence to personalize the journey. Unfortunately, we were not able to see that come to full fruition due to the event cancellation and some market dynamics in the beauty sector.”

Getting There: Culture is the Biggest Obstacle

While Questex needed the right tech infrastructure to get the right data into the right hands, Miller says that getting beyond perceived cultural differences between Fierce and ExL was the biggest challenge.

“We were dealing with two different cultures that hadn’t been integrated and the team didn’t do a lot together,” says Miller. “Fierce thought it did this, ExL thought it did that. But did they really? The fact of the matter was, they needed to be doing stuff together.”

While COVID-19 has been the bane of B2B publishing, it has helped Questex pushed through some of the inertia that would have held up change in the past.

“In terms of collaboration and bringing these groups together, I have to say the COVID situation helped us do this more quickly than we normally would of,” says Miller.

Miller credits Questex’s ability to break down siloes and get groups working more closely together to its Centers of Excellence, in which experts across the company come together to produce best practices in a variety of areas including audience and database, content, customer experience, and product, with topics ranging from protecting customer privacy to identifying where the customer is in the buying cycle to hosting virtual events to which headlines work best and why.

“The first thing is you need to do it to make the decision on what you want your internal core competencies to be, which is easier said than done,” says Miller. “Usually, you’re saying collaboration gives you more of a competitive advantage than really deep product knowledge. We combine the two—the markets work with the Centers of Excellence by saying ‘Our audience wants this, our advertisers wants that’, and the Centers of Excellence say, ‘OK, we have that over here, which parts work for you and what do we have to create as new?’”

Having that expertise on hand has enabled Questex to move quickly. “Someone asked, how have you pivoted so quickly to virtual events?” says Miller. “We just did it, but in essence we didn’t just do it because we have six people on our team in our Centers of Excellence who were part of creating the first scalable virtual events about a decade ago.”

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Connectiv Awards 2020 McAllister Top Management Fellowship to Thomas CEO Tony Uphoff

Editor’s Note: Hear Tony Uphoff and other leading B2B media executives including Industry Dive’s Sean Griffey, Arizent’s Gemma Postlethwaite and Government Executive Media’s Tim Hartman in a live stream on Thursday, April 30 at 1pm ET called “CEO Power Panel: How Industry Leaders Are Planning for Their Companies to Not Just Survive but Thrive.” The event is free for all Connectiv members and more information is available here.   

Tony Uphoff, president and CEO of Thomas, a leader in product sourcing, supplier selection and marketing solutions for the manufacturing industry, will serve as the 2020 McAllister Top Management Fellow.

One of the highest executive honors in B2B media and information, the fellowship is awarded annually by Connectiv to help promote the study of business media, with McAllister Fellows acting as teachers and advisors at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications.

Uphoff, who joined Thomas in 2017, has helped lead the 102-year-old former print directory publisher in a radical leap to becoming a “data platform company that runs like a software business focused on user experience.” Thomasnet.com today serves more than 1.5 million buyers per month across 70,000 different categories containing over 500,000 North American suppliers and 7.8 million product listings.

Previously, Uphoff served as CEO of Business.com and held a variety of executive roles at B2B media and information companies such as UBM and CMP, where he helped transform CMP’s $125 million legacy print operation into UBM TechWeb, a $275 million media, events and marketing services business.

“I’m thrilled to receive the 2020 McAllister Top Management Fellowship,” says Uphoff. “I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had great mentors, coaches and role models throughout my career. Quite literally I continue to stand on the shoulders of giants and I look forward to helping the next generation of business information and media leaders. I’d like to thank the McAllister Foundation and Connectiv for this incredible honor. I look forward to participating at Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.”

The fellowships are endowed by Mr. and Mrs. Donald McAllister, Jr. and Ms. Liane E. McAllister, in honor of the late Donald McAllister, Sr., who was an active figure in specialized business media for over 70 years and a chairman of Connectiv’s predecessor, American Business Media. McAllister was chairman of the executive committee at Geyer-McAllister, one of the country’s oldest family-owned publishing firms, until its sale to Reed Business Information in 1998.

Marion Minor, owner and CEO of EPG Specialty Media, was the most recent McAllister Top Fellow and spent her three-day residency at Medill earlier this year discussing “How B2B Media Continues to Evolve and the Business and Career Opportunities It Presents.”

“The McAllister Top Management Fellow plays a key role in imparting B2B/information services wisdom at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications,” says Abe Peck, the school’s Director of Business to Business Communications. “Today, the Fellow interacts with students and faculty across the curricula, conveying key B2B trends and strategies and sharing the alignment of content creation to business goals. Increasingly, this involves digital, data and events, all of which are integral to the school’s continued transformation—and to Tony Uphoff’s own vision.”

SourceMedia Rebrands as Arizent, Preps Launch of New Membership Business

Eighteen months after SourceMedia named Gemma Postlethwaite its new CEO, the financial information company today unveils a new name: Arizent.

The new brand is intended to convey the company mission of helping to raise up and advance the financial industry as well as professional services such as accounting and HR.

“We’ve been bringing employees and customers along on our journey for the past 18 months,” Postlethwaite tells Connectiv. “We asked, what do we look like on our best day? How do we unlock our value? There is no sense in changing the name just for the sake of it. The essence of our value proposition is how we unlock actionable insights and analysis for our communities, business growth for our customers and personal growth for our employees.”

Like many of its peers in B2B media and information, the former Source has long contended it’s no longer just a media company and the new name helps emphasize its focus on delivering interlocking content, research, networking and more to its audiences, while selling integrated programs across the collective DNA of its more than 40 brands that span live events, peer-to-peer-networks, subscription services and media.

“The term ‘media’ is no longer adequate to describe the breadth of our value proposition,” says chief strategy officer Jeff Mancini. “Our communities are no longer content to be just passive consumers of content. They are looking for a broad range of insights and analysis that spans research, live events and peer interaction. The same is true for our marketing clients. In order to sell integrated programs, you need to talk about what you do differently. The value we bring today is not just through an IAB standard banner or a 10×10 exhibit at an event.”

As part of the rebranding strategy, the team broke down the three pillars that defined the company, including,

Transformative Ideas. “SourceMedia’s editorial brands have always stood out – and won awards for – their independent authoritative journalism. By investing more in original research and analysis, we can go really deep into coverage of ideas that are disruptive and transformative, such as AI and technology, that are moving the financial services sector forward,” says Mancini.

Community. “We then rally leaders around those ideas,” says Mancini. “We have over 20 live events plus new peer-to-peer networks.”

Redefining Industry Standards. A roll-up of Arizent’s benchmark products, such The Most Powerful Women in Banking, Best Banks to Work For, Best Fintechs to Work For and Rising Stars. “All these programs are research-backed and represent what we believe is redefining the industry standard,” says Mancini.

Arizent to Launch New Leader Membership Network in March

One of the most significant new initiatives for Arizent will be the launch in March of a new leadership network that will build off the framework of the company’s 17-year-old Most Powerful Women in Banking Awards as well as other gender inclusion programs.

But rather than just offer networking opportunities for a single demographic, the new program will include leaders throughout the financial services industry and offer members access to exclusive content and research, as the group collectively advances a common goal, like greater gender diversity.

The network features a corporate membership structure that enables members to participate in year-round programming, which will culminate in the latter part of the year with the Most Powerful Women in Banking Awards as well as the launch of a new summit (the name will be announced later in the year).

“We will be working on tangible things, such as getting more women on boards, helping to solve the pipeline problem of getting new talent into financial services and the summit will be the moment when we bring the most senior members together to report on how we are doing,” says Postlethwaite.

Marketers will also be able to participate in the network, not to be in sell mode but to be “champions of change” by offering resources such as data and training to the group, according to Postlethwaite. “For example, an executive search firm can sponsor one of the board events but their duties will not just be to thank everyone for coming but to make sure that every woman leaves that meeting with her resume done,” she adds. “Those are the very practical, tangible deliverables that we are looking for.”

While Postlethwaite won’t reveal pricing for the new network, she says the program represents a completely new business for Arizent at a totally different price point than traditional B2B subscriptions or media. “This starts to deliver on the promise of a community,” says Postlethwaite. “If you actually look at what it takes to build a community, not everyone is doing that. This is what we stand for and why we matter.”

More Growth, Less Niche

Overall, Arizent is seeing significant growth in its subscriptions and events businesses. “We’re fortunate that we have sizeable subscription asset, we have a sizeable events business and we have a great media business,” says Postlethwaite. “Over the course of the last 18 months, the team has been elevating the conversation with our media clients and turning them into true solutions clients.”

Postlethwaite says Arizent will see significant revenue growth in 2020 and that growth will stem from a focus on a community-first approach. Where page views once ruled Arizent now expects to grow subscriptions, events and new community plays like the networks. From there, marketing services becomes more effective due to a quality over quantity engagement strategy.

“You can now show up in a newly defined community that’s much broader and less niche,” adds Postlethwaite. “If you’re in banking, you shouldn’t just be in American Banker, you should be in all our brands. That’s where the growth is on the media side.”

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How OPIS Used Video – and Story – to Sell Their RetailSuite

“Gas station owner Mike is struggling to keep up with the times, and not just in his wardrobe.”

Thus begins one of the many OPIS animated videos featuring Mike, here wearing a psychedelic shirt and headband. “Because Mike is comfortable doing things the way he’s always done them, he’s falling behind retail fuel price trends… Mike needs to understand how his direct competitors and the stations with the top brands in his region change their prices. Then use that data to capture market share during periods of price volatility.

“That’s when Mike’s assistant manager Mary had a suggestion. She recommended AnalyticsPro, one of the five components of the OPIS Retail Suite.”

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This 98-second marketing video is one of many in the OPIS RetailSuite Video Series starring the buyer persona (but not Oscar-nominated) “Mike the station manager.” Joining Mike on his journeys toward discovery are Bob his boss, rival station manager Matt (boo) and assistant manager Mary. It took all of about 20 seconds for me to fall in deep like with Mike and Mary, and apparently OPIS customers felt the same. This campaign helped produce 600+ closed sales in 2018, and drove a 17% YOY increase in sales revenue for the retail segment of OPIS business.

The video series also won a 2019 SIPAward for Best Use of Video in Marketing.

“In late 2017, OPIS (Oil Price Information Service) launched RetailSuite, an online platform with five tools to help convenience store operators and gas station owners sell more fuel and increase profits,” wrote Rick Wilkes, executive director of marketing for OPIS, in their winning entry. “To introduce this breakthrough product to the retail fuel market, we implemented a multi-channel marketing campaign to establish a product brand, build awareness of it and generate demo requests.

Video proved pivotal to the success of this campaign, and provided inspiration for spin-off activity in other channels. They created a series six “explainer” videos, including one overview and separate versions for each product module or tool.

“We used animation as the format, with ‘Mike the station manager’ as the main character and continuing thread connecting the series,” Wilkes wrote. “Each video showed in just 1-2 minutes how the individual components of RetailSuite helped Mike improve his business in an entertaining and easy-to-understand way.”

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In another video, Mike trains for a marathon and starts thinking about competition. That leads to “How to Grade Your Gas Station’s Profit Margin Performance With OPIS MarginPro. In another, Mike wants to expand his business and looks to “How to Increase Your Retail Gas Station’s Market Share With OPIS MarketShare Pro.”

“We posted these videos on the OPIS YouTube channel, and on the OPIS website (both product pages and the video library),” Wilkes continued.  “We promoted them via email (8 blasts) and social media (48 posts on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook). All of this activity combined to generate 5K+ views.”

In an age where all the editorial and marketing experts promote storytelling, Mike’s adventures and travails resonate strongly. In fact, in a previous talk at a SIPA conference, Wilkes spoke about where their authenticity comes from.

“We talked to our sales director and asked, ‘When one of your customers comes to our site, what are they going to want to know right away?’ ” he said. “What commodities we cover? Are they going to want to know about our market segments? He said, ‘No, they’re going to look for who they are. They’re going to say, I’m a retailer, I sell gas. What do you have for me?’ So what we tried to do is immediately show buyer personas, and a who-we-help section. You can see all these fuel chain personas and there are a lot of them.”

OPIS also showcased video in what Wilkes called “the single most offbeat—and lucrative—effort of the RetailSuite campaign”: a printed brochure with the overview video embedded inside. They mailed this piece to 91 high-potential prospects chosen by sales, providing reps with a memorable context for follow-up calls and emails. Early last year, that promotion had already generated 15 leads and four conversions with very little expense.

I can’t wait to see what Mike is up to next.