Amid challenges, b-to-b media demonstrates renewed strength
By Sean Callahan
Total b-to-b media revenue grew 7.2% to $26.5 billion last year, according to Business Information Network data released by American Business Media. Each of the four categories tracked by BIN—trade shows, print, digital and data services—increased last year compared with 2010.
Trade show revenue was up 2.2%, to $10.5 billion. Print rose 3.8%, to $7.7 billion. Digital posted the strongest growth, increasing 22.0%, to $6.4 billion. Data services revenue increased 6.5%, to $1.9 billion.
For a business sector that has grappled with the challenges posed by the Internet, has lost large chunks of business to Google and has found a new threat in social networking sites, b-to-b media appears to have returned, against the expectations of many observers, to a growth track. But just how healthy are the media?
The 2.9% increase in print was unexpectedly robust, especially amid the continuing din of pundits speculating that print is dead. But while the print ad revenue figures are encouraging, BIN's tabulation of print ad pages is widely considered more accurate. In 2011, the growth of b-to-b ad pages was essentially flat, at 0.32%, according to BIN.
“It's good growth,” Roland DeSilva, managing partner of media investment bank DeSilva & Phillips, said of the overall BIN numbers. “It continues to show the importance of digital and the growth of digital. You can see print is flat in pages, which we see in all of our clients. Print is either flat or down, but it's being balanced by more profitable dollars in digital, events and data.”
December saw an alarming drop in ad pages, which tumbled 6.57% from December 2010. DeSilva attributed the drop to “unease” with the broad economy and political uncertainty. He also said b-to-b marketers' experiments with display advertising on Facebook and LinkedIn may have contributed to the drop.
Although the trade show sector posted the slowest growth of the four BIN categories, it remains the largest category and may provide the key to future media expansion. By bringing an industry together face-to-face, and not virtually, business media companies do something that Google and Facebook do not.