Association of online publishers Helping media owners build better digital business

The business end of B2B media

Tony HallettCollective Content Founder Tony Hallett
Tony Hallett is an editor, publisher and consultant living in London. He is the founder of Collective Content and has spent 15 years working in digital media, running publications owned by Silicon Media Group, CNET Networks and CBS Interactive. Businesses buying and selling from and to each other, something that has happened for millennia, can appear overly complicated these days. That’s my take on how it feels in circles where B2B media operate. Looking at the line-up for the AOP B2B Conference on 14 March I see a lot of good speakers, speakers who will hopefully try to cut through some of the confusion. Do clients need publishers in an increasingly digital and social future? Do some publishers need clients (advertisers) if paid content increasingly works? And should I mention ‘death of the agency’? Someone might, come 14 March. True, businesses way back when operated without agencies and media. Only now I’d argue there are some areas where working together is more important than ever. Digging deeper to understand what people want In B2B, I’m a big fan of events where buyers and sellers can meet and, well, buy and sell. This isn’t stuff happening way up the funnel, it’s the business end of B2B media. From content to relationships to business being done – that makes sense. But it won’t always scale. So what I also like – and this is far from unique – is something that everyone is talking about. Whether your main terminology is ‘audience’ or ‘customers’ or the ‘data’ you work with in spreadsheets (or quite possibly all three), digging deep to understand what people want and buy (or can’t buy, because we haven’t yet worked out they want it) is key in all this. If clients could have done away with the need for agencies and media owners they would have. Big brands and organisations have had their own websites since the 1990s. They have had millions of Likes on their Facebook pages for a while. But that’s not usually where the deepest engagement happens. Even though it’s naturally narrower than some AOP events, the B2B Conference could have 100 different angles. It has some specifics that it’s really important we, as an industry, get stuck into. But I think the conversations will again and again come back to quality of data and what we do with it. What's your number in the digital transition? It’s not easy. In any transition like this – and you could argue we’re about a decade behind where we should be given how digital media got big some time ago – you could identify four steps:
  1. Realising there’s an opportunity
  2. Committing to doing something
  3. Doing something
  4. Getting the desired results

Most of us who’ll be at the event are certainly beyond (1), probably in stage (2). A fair number will also now be well into (3). If anyone is at (4) they should probably be presenting. Deriving real meaning from your audience Not convinced it’s that hard? Think of industries such as retailing or retail banking, which have had millions of data points, all backed by high-end technology, for some time now. When was the last time you had a personalised message when withdrawing cash at an ATM? Are those special offers you get based on a Clubcard or Nectar card really all that? Publishers are making moves to derive real meaning from their audiences, meaning that is valuable to clients. They have to. In B2B media, data journalism can even feed into that, done appropriately. B2B digital agencies can help, understanding their clients and their clients’ customers better, those same customers who make up a title’s audience. I am very much looking forward to finding out more at the Conference about the progress that has been made.

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