Business-to-business magazine publishers, like other print operators, are rethinking their model to ensure their survival. The Media’s Melina Meletakos finds out how they are doing this.
Business-to-business (B2B) magazines have for many years been informational lifeblood of the industry insiders who read them.
But just like their consumer counterparts, the digital age has forced many such publishers to transform their old business models as they re-evaluate their function in a world of free, aggregated content.
For a number of B2B titles, the solution has been to experiment with extending their brand to create profitable spin-off products. The best B2B publications serve as hubs around which an industry can congregate to share information and ideas, no matter what the platform.
RISKSA is a financial services special-interest title published by COSA Media that is reinventing the way trade magazines navigate the digital space. And its efforts are paying off. At the 2013 Pica Awards, the magazine won business magazine of the year for the third year running. At the same event it also nabbed awards for Publishing Excellence, B2B Editor of the Year, B2B Cover of the Year, and B2B Profile Writer of the Year.
What sets RISKSA apart from other B2B magazines, says Andy Mark, editor in chief and publisher at COSA Media, is its ability to segment its audience across a number of different channels.
“All these platforms work together holistically,” says Mark. “I’m not convinced that the end of print is nigh, but it has to be supported by other platforms.”
Apart from its website, RISKSA has an app that is available via Amazon and the iStore, across all operating systems and on all devices. The brand has also cashed in on ancillary products, like its annual regatta, Better Business Breakfasts and nine insurance bootcamp seminars, giving advertisers an opportunity to reach the same audience through different avenues.
This cross-platform thinking is also reflected in COSA Media’s approach to monetising these ventures because while its print product may still be RISKSA’s main source of advertising revenue, the brand doesn’t have a rate card with a one-size-fits-all approach. It now offers potential advertisers tailor-made packages that span all its platforms.
Brooke Pattrick Publications, which puts out titles like African Mining, Sustain and Urban Green File, is another B2B publisher that is capitalising on a mobile-centric African market by developing web apps for the company’s brands.
Darren Smith, publisher at Brooke Pattrick Publications, says that the publishing house has found that 80-90 percent of its app users are in fact global.
“This shows that they are not cannibalising our existing circulation. They are, in fact, building it,” says Smith.
Smith says the way out of the digital conundrum is for B2B brands to offer their audience other ways of sharing industry-specific information.
“Readers are bumped with a deluge of rubbish, of puffery, of shallow information and the web doesn’t help that. The web actually exacerbates that. I think the online answer is to provide the way for professionals to collaborate, share ideas and knowledge, and get better informed on the route to making their decisions,” he says.
One such platform is UK-based 2degreesnetwork.com, a 40 300-strong online community consisting of sustainable business professionals. It serves as a forum for like-minded individuals to connect and access information, share best practice, and solve sustainable business problems together. It also has an online and offline events programme that brings these users face-to-face with their peers and experts.
Similarly, Knovel, a web-based information provider for engineers, has developed data analysis tools that allow users to download their data into Excel, which is commonly used by these professionals.
Existing B2B business models may have capsized, says Smith, but what hasn’t changed is consumers’ willingness to pay for what they consider quality content.
“It’s not about the magazine, the app, or the website. It’s about all of that because that’s where the value resides,” he says.
“The models are there but they require critical mass. This is where I think South African publishers lack ambition. They are too confined to the local market and they don’t understand that once you are online, you are part of the global audience. And they don’t quite know how to transition their content to be meaningful to a global-local audience.”
Mark agrees, saying that understanding one’s audience and finding the most suitable platform is essential. “You can’t do the same old thing and expect a different result. Content is still very much king. It has to be meaningful and relevant to have an impact, the same as it always has been. The channels are just different now.”
This story was first published in the August 2014 issue of The Media magazine.
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