10 Great Media Sites
Business media companies continue to adapt, thrive on the Web
By Sean Callahan
B-to-b media companies have been under siege for the past 15 years as the Internet has threatened their long-established business model of offering targeted advertising to vertical markets.
In the 1990s, startup, online-only companies such as VerticalNet competed against them. “They called us idiots and dinosaurs,” said Tom Kemp, chairman-CEO of Northstar Travel Media.
Next came Google, which has done far more damage than the defunct VerticalNet ever did. The search engine giant's AdWords platform makes a mighty contribution to Google's $30 billion in annual revenue. Much of the revenue generated by this targeted advertising has come at the expense of b-to-b media companies.
The latest major threat comes from the social media sector, where Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are now offering the kind of targeted advertising opportunities business media companies have always provided.
There's also the long-term menace of ad networks, which, on the one hand, help by delivering incremental ad revenue to business media companies, but at the same time contribute to the overall lowering of CPMs on the Web.
Nonetheless, in the face of these threats, many b-to-b publishers have risen to the challenge and developed exceptional websites—as the properties recognized in this special report attest.
From trade publication and technology websites to portals to subscription sites, business media companies—whether in the technology realm, such as United Business Media, or solidly in trade publishing, such as Hanley Wood—have created online models that contribute to the bottom line.
“For years, we've been told we're good at producing trade magazines, but we don't have the talent, culture and vision to move into other areas,” Kemp said. “It has been a rocky and difficult migration, but I think most b-to-b guys—thank God—have done a pretty good job. Otherwise, they'd be out of business.”
Kemp is proud of his company's new Travel-42 website, which is recognized in the Launch category of this special report. The paid site brings together three offline paid products into a single paid online product that fits into the work flow of the target market of travel agents. “We're doing pretty well with it,” Kemp said.
Hanley Wood's pro.housingintelligence.com is another paid content site recognized among this year's 10 Great Media Websites. The site, which provides real estate trend information for the construction industry, is proof that business media companies still offer information that users will seek out and—sometimes—pay for.
Many of the sites recognized in this year's report are positioning themselves as the center of discussion in their vertical communities. Summit Business Media's PropertyCasualty-360 is designed as a portal for insurance industry professionals. In addition to Summit's own editorial content, the site aggregates stories from news wires and features prominent industry bloggers.
So far the strategy has worked, as PropertyCasualty360 has garnered more visitors than the five separate Summit magazine websites it is aggregating. And that's a good thing, because the company plans to employ the portal strategy in all the vertical markets it covers.
Other properties on the 10 Great Media Sites list are borrowing some of the lessons taught by Facebook and other social media sites. For example, Cygnus Business Media's Officer.com, which serves the law enforcement sector, features Forums and Squad Room, which is designed to be a Facebook-like community for police officers.
Officer.com also offers online training to its users. UBM's EETimes.com, which is recognized as the top tech site in this year's special report, also has a section on its navigation bar devoted to education and training, featuring technical papers, courses from manufacturers such as Texas Instruments and hundreds of webinars.
In the end, EETimes.com and others are using websites to do what the trade press has always done: provide actionable information to readers. Now, they're just using a comparatively new tool, their website, to do it.
|10 Great Media Sites|
|EETimes||CSO||The Economist||Property Casualty360||Pro.Housing Intelligence|
|Travel42||ECN||AgWeb.com||Healthcare IT News||Officer.com|