B2B publishers as marketing consultants discussed at FIPP Congress

Old and new markets collide in an increasingly social world, and these rapid changes are transforming publishers’ roles. Publishers increasingly have the potential to expand their revenue with innovative B2B efforts. Panelists at FIPP’s Congress in Rome today discussed whether or not these changes are a good thing for publishing.

Armando Garosci, editorial project manager at Largo Consumo, Italy, cited search engines, with their real-time and non-sequential news streams, as a contributing factor to the pressure that the B2B magazine media industry faces. Readers now have limited, broken-up time for reading, and advertisers doubt the ability of magazines to hold their target readers with traditional content alone.

B2B activities with advertisers are attractive because what advertisers want is much simpler than what readers want: Advertisers want numbers that are measurable and convertible. But Garosci said publishers should consider the mission of their magazines. Periodical magazines are increasingly becoming online dailies. The fact that we have new technology available does not mean that we must change our nature, said Garosci.

There are certainly opportunities for growth and additional revenue. Largo Consumo’s B2B activities include three primary outlets: advertorials, focus groups, and direct email marketing (DEM). Still, Garosci disagreed with the idea that publishers should take their role so far as to become consultants. The role of the publisher should be that of cultural mediator with a special ability to have the confidence of both parties—readers as well as advertisers.

Largo Consumo’s B2B advertorial efforts emphasise this role of mediation: Balance and functional information for readers while providing competent support in creation for advertisers. Focus groups ensure openness of discussion, and DEM efforts are limited so that readers do not receive high quantities of information.

Marcelo Burman, president and CEO of Grupo Cerca, Costa Rica, had a different view of B2B. He said that roles are changing: Editors are now curators and publishers are now marketing consultants. The process of publishing is part of a marketing funnel, said Burman. The funnel starts with the universe (target audience) at the top, followed by awareness, contact, interest, and commodity purchase at the bottom.

“We have the ability to help with every step of the chain,” said Burman. Historically, publishers’ involvement could only go as far as creating interest, he added. But with content becoming more of a home for communities, B2B publishers are now in a position to engage them, and can provide in-depth information, context and analysis to help readers make purchases.

Burman agreed that the B2B process within publishing does have weaknesses, including news commodities becoming increasingly free; a growing number of content aggregators; and growth of alternative platforms for advertisers. Even so, publishers cannot continue to keep selling square-inch advertising alone, he said.

Both panelists agreed that regardless of the level of B2B activities, providing valuable content to the reader is still paramount. The publisher must preserve his assets of confidence and neutrality if he wishes to see a future for his magazine, said Garosci.

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