I was a little shocked and very sad when one of my favorite publications, BtoB Magazine, recently announced its demise by year end as a separate magazine. Instead, the nearly 100-year-old magazine will be rolled into its sister pub Advertising Age. As the B2B industry bible, BtoB Magazine's death with create a real void in B2B coverage. To help buck me up and put some perspective on this, I turned to B2B marketing guru and BtoB Magazine columnist Paul Gillin:
What if anything does this mean for B2B marketers and say about B2B marketing?
I don't think it says anything about B2B marketing, but it says a lot about the state of B2B advertising. B2B publishers have been hit harder than any other publishing segment by the rapid move of dollars from display advertising to lead generation and online media. Consider that a little more than a decade ago B2B technology publications were running hundreds of pages of ads each week. Today, many of them aren't even in print anymore. Many of these publishers were BtoB magazine’s biggest advertisers, and their financial woes have been passed along to their business partners. There simply wasn't much the magazine could do to get more blood from a stone.
How come AdAge's print edition isn't similarly troubled (assumption on my part)
I can only speculate on AdAge’s business since I have no special insight into it. AdAge is a broad-based publication covering the advertising, public relations and marcomm industries. It has a healthy readership among agency professionals, many of whom work in consumer markets, which have not been as hard hit by the decline in ad spending as the B2B segment has. As far as remaining in print, Crain Communications has a commitment to the printed page that is rare among business publishers. Most of its titles have some print presence. Whether that is a good idea from a business perspective I don't know, but as a privately held company Crain gets to make that decision.
I know Crain's tried to justify the merger of BtoB with AdAge by saying there is more overlap between B2B and B2C. What is your take on the overlap? That is, how are the two types of marketing different? How are they similar?
The traditional lines between paid, owned and earned media are blurring, which is one of the reasons the agency business is in such an uproar. B2B marketers are increasingly taking their cues from the B2C segment in their use of communities, gamification and online search and display advertising. So to some extent there has been increasing overlap between those segments.
That said, there are also fundamental differences. The biggest one is that B2B marketing is mainly about lead generation, whereas B2C is more about brand awareness and driving sales. B2B marketers are tasked with finding leads to handoff to the sales organization, while the main objective of B2C marketers is to drive people into the stores to buy. In that respect, the two markets are still very different.
What do you recommend B2B marketers read -- either print or online to stay abreast of the industry? Or another way to say this, what do you read in print or online to stay abreast of B2B marketing? And why?
There are precious few B2B marketing-focused publications left, but there's still a lot of good information about what's going on in media. Here are a few of my frequent reads:
I read all those sites and newsletters for the same reason: They have their finger on the pulse of what's happening in media and marketing, they have good writers and they’re reliable. I'll put in a special plug for MarketingProfs’ B2B Forum, which is a terrific annual conference.
I also find a lot of value in aggregators. I think LinkedIn does a great job of sharing the most important news in the Marketing Strategies channel of LinkedIn Today.
A couple of oddball favorites are Editor & Publisher, which has historically served the newspaper industry but which has quite a bit of good content about how the advertising business is changing. The Word Of Mouth Marketing Association SmartBrief newsletter is packed with case studies, quite a few of which are B2B.
I'll also put in a good word for my favorite newsletter, Marketing Charts. It's a great roundup of statistics and new research, and a lot of the content is B2B-focused. Marketing Charts probably generates about 20% of my Twitter stream.
Anything else you want to add?
Two things I’d add:
- One is a note of appreciation for the staff of BtoB. They cover a difficult industry and have managed to build pipelines to many of the most influential marketers at B2B companies. In addition to the magazine and website they run a full schedule of regional and national events, awards programs and special supplements. BtoB was a victim of changes in the advertising market it couldn't control, but it did everything in its power to survive. Everyone I've ever worked with there has been unceasingly friendly and cooperative. That's unusual in the publishing game, in my experience.
- The other observation is about the value of print. I've written for many online outlets over the last eight years. I've written five books and I maintain two blogs. However, nothing has gotten the recognition that the column in BtoB has. I can't tell you how many people I've met who have recognized me from that column. There's something about the printed page that can't be matched online. I was never paid for my column in BtoB, but that was never an issue for me because I felt lucky to have such a prominent platform. There are only two print publications I subscribe to anymore: Sports Illustrated and BtoB. The next time the flight attendant says to turn off your electronic devices, I'll miss having one of those publications in my briefcase.
[Image: Flickr user: WILPRZ]