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Take note: Lessons everyone in media can learn from B2B giant IDG

Contextualized experiences, programmatic advertising, intent data and first-to-market… Michael Friedenberg, CEO of IDG Communications worldwide, the largest global tech media, data, and services company, outlines the phrases set to dominate B2B in coming years…

Michael will be part of a panel discussing developments in B2B media at the FIPP World Congress in Toronto, Canada from 13-15 October 2015 (register here to join them, if you haven’t yet).

  • See the provisional programme here
  • See the B2B speakers here
  • See more speakers here
  • See companies that have already registered to be there, here

The B2B market is evolving at a pace. How is IDG adapting and what’s top of your agenda right now?

I started in high-tech media 23 years ago and had the pleasure of joining IDG ten years ago. I was brought in as CEO of CXO Media, before becoming CEO of IDG Enterprise, followed by CEO of IDG North America and in 2013 worldwide CEO. So I’ve had 23 years in high-tech media and for the past decade a role that has touched pretty much every product line within IDG.

Of course, that ten-years has coincided with the greatest period of digital change and growth we have ever seen. Nine years ago IDG surpassed the threshold that most media companies are trying to achieve right now, where your digital gains are surpassing your print declines. 

What we’re focused on right now is moving from conventional web strategy to mobile, social, data-driven web strategy. The market focus is on brands versus audiences and what we call brand-specific revenue streams versus marketing services revenue streams. I’m happy to say that 51 per cent of our overall revenue is now coming from marketing services or revenues that aren’t brand-attributable. So we’re doing a really nice job of broadening out our portfolio and monetising our capabilities.

What sets you apart from your competitors? You’re in a really crowded space but are clearly thriving – so what is it that you’re doing so well?

Every media company will tell you that they’re focused on relevance, trust and performance. But having been around for 50 years, IDG proves, day in, day out, that we have incredible relevance to the technology marketplace - both for our readers and our advertisers. That’s established a level of trust where we can deliver on our promise to those two constituents. At the end of the day, what we bring to the table is the combination of, premium audiences/brands, data and marketing services at global scale. That scale is defined differently now, of course. It used to be about having a flag in different countries, and IDG has a presence in 97 countries. But now, scale is defined and enabled by platforms. So we have built a data platform, a marketing services platform, and a demand-generation platform – which provides us with incredible global scale. 

What are the B2B platforms that really excite you going forward?

I think IDG might be the only company that has a global trade desk, so I’d like to think that we are separate in our ability to monetise all of our impressions on a worldwide basis. Our sophistication on the programmatic side – both on the RTB and PMP (Private Marketplace/Private Exchange) – is certainly going to lead us into the future. Doing programmatic around digital display, mobile and video are also capabilities we have on a worldwide basis. So our data platform is something that is very exciting, as is our demand-generation platform, which allows us to focus on performance marketing and the monetization of content. The movement towards account-based marketing with the ability to target purchasing intent within specific companies and identifying the buyers driving the purchase process is going to be an essential capability for B2B companies. IDG is putting significant investment and energy towards these areas.

What are the tactics businesses will need to deploy to be successful in the emerging B2B space?

So internally we have this statement that I call my North Star: ‘innovate constantly, execute flawlessly, deliver consistent results.” If you are able to keep that mindset of ‘Where are you innovating, how are you growing, how are you actually getting to market fast and efficiently?’, the results will be there. That’s something businesses in this fast-paced world have to live and breathe every day and it’s something we are particularly good at. The ability to get to market quickly is particularly important today, because the first in, wins in this marketplace. Bringing global scale and aligning your initiatives with what your readers and customers needs are is crucial – but I think if you do all of those things, then this business isn’t really that difficult. What is difficult is aligning your resources, your talent, your culture – all the elements that must align to what your customers needs are.

What are the big B2B developments companies must be aware of on the horizon?

There are a couple of things that are exciting for B2B. The term ‘intent data’ is really taking hold right now – the ability to leverage demographic, firmographic and contextual data to create a more meaningful and measurable result for your advertisers. I think sales structures are going to evolve a lot over the coming years as well. At the moment, most media companies have direct sales models. How programmatic is going to change that is going to be traumatic for a lot of media companies. User experience is also going to be really important. The talent in most media companies right now is primarily focused on editorial and sales – but it’s going to be equally important to have great designers, developers and analytics specialists if you want to be successful. It’s really about moving to a personalized and contextualized experience for everyone that engages with your digital brands. Those are probably the biggest trends I see coming up in the coming years.

You’ll be speaking at the FIPP World Congress in November – what value do you take from events such as that?

What’s really interesting is that years ago everyone told us these physical events would be replaced by virtual events and we would never have to leave our desks to attend them. I think we have seen the opposite of that – because the opportunity to actually get together and network, to share ideas in person and to have face-to-face discussions is invaluable. In the US we can be a bit guilty of being myopic. I think what FIPP brings is a strong global perspective of how the media industry is evolving. 

Finally, how does Mike Friedenberg switch off from work?

Well, given that we are in 97 countries, I travel a lot, so I try to spend my spare time with my family. But I’m also a big fan of sports and I am actually really interested in the relationship between business and sports – the aspects of winning, culture and tactics are really fascinating to me. 

Meet and hear more from Michael at the FIPP World Congress, taking place from 13-15 October 2015 in Toronto, Canada (register here to join them, if you haven’t yet).

  • See the provisional programme here
  • See more speakers here
  • See companies that have already registered to be there, here

For your regular fix of news, Q&As, features, in-depth reports and more, visit FIPP.com and subscribe to our newsletters for regular updates on the Congress and more from the media world. You can also follow us on Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Google+ | Instagram | Pinterest | YouTube for updates. 

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