Michael Friedenberg will be speaking at B2B Media Strategies in December. Stay with TheMediaBriefing or click through to follow along with the event or to book tickets.

B2B media companies trade off their in-depth knowledge of an audience to help their customers sell products. That, when you boil it right down, is the essence of B2B publishing.

As such many B2B companies have a relative advantage in the publishing game in that their audiences are often self-selected: there’s an innate engagement the publisher can foster still further. 

For IDG, the largest UK tech news publisher, there’s another advantage. By virtue of its expertise in tech media and interests of its audience, it was among the first publishers to really have to grapple with changing audience consumption habits. As such it is arguably ahead of the game and in a position to really capitalise on the opportunities those changes present.

Its CEO worldwide, Michael Friedenberg, explained:

“I think clearly what happens is we saw the digital future unfolding, and part of that is because of the industry we serve. Being the largest high-tech media data and services company in the world our customers were cutting edge if not bleeding edge into the digital forefront. They pushed us, and if you’re truly listening to your customer then you’re going to build your business based around what your customers’ needs are.

“They pretty quickly said that based on the ability to target and measure advertising over the web that that’s of great value versus how we’re currently measuring advertising in print.

Brands like PC World, with its global reach of 34.4 million across 47 countries, are testament to the idea that IDG’s audience helped push them to develop tech-based solutions to problems the B2B space is facing ahead of time.

Friedenberg acknowledges that competitive advantage, but argues there are trends across the entire B2B landscape on which publishers can capitalise:

“There are some common themes that are staring us in the face right now on a B2B media perspective. It’s all about deepening engagement and improving purchase performance. The whole idea about delivering purchasing intent and the ability to understand how someone… is moving across that purchase process.

“So it’s really about how you help your customers deepen engagement with the community that they want to reach and how do you accelerate the purchase process.”

The new measure of B2B success

So IDG benefited from quickly establishing that it was the previously underutilised ‘below-the-line’ digital revenue of data and marketing services that were set to be the growth area for B2B publishers. That’s been borne out as increased pressure on print circulations and ad revenue and the squeezing of digital ad revenue from all sides have limited the ability of most publishers to generate revenue from more traditional models.

At IDG, for instance, below-the-line revenue grew 21 percent in 2015, YOY. And I’d argue that, as the print-revenue-vs-digital-revenue method of measuring digital transformation becomes more antiquated, the new yardstick for a publishers’ success will be that proportion of ad revenue vs. marketing services revenue.

Friedenberg says:

“I think that’s going to be something that more and more media organisations are going to need to measure as the shift occurs, moving into these new revenue streams. I personally think we’re a harbinger, or some people say canary in the coalmine.

“We were the very first to really see digital exceed print, and I think the next couple will be demand-gen over display and below-the-line over above-the-line.” 

In order to aid with that process, IDG has an intelligence platform (SONAR) that aids with that below-the-line revenue, in particular with demand generation and refining a purchase intent funnel. As explained by Friedenberg it essentially produces heatmaps that highlight the key points along a consumers’ journey where they can best be targeted for purchase.

But that has to work in concert with the content strategy, and Friedenberg says it’s this part of the publisher’s strategy that he’s most interested in:

“On the content side that’s where I get really excited about affiliate and third-party type of programs. In the past year alone IDG has referred close to over a billion dollars of revenue to our third party affiliates. In no way are we breaching editorial lines, all we’re trying to do is create content that aligns with people’s interests and their intent.” 

Changing content types

And just as IDG was quick to react to changes in how B2B publishing would be monetised, it’s also adapted its content strategy according to the changing consumption habits of their audience. Its IDG.tv endeavour, for instance, which unifies all of the company’s video content (e.g. insights, analysis and reviews from CIO, Networkworld, Computerworld, PCWorld and Macworld) under the single banner, is partly in service of its audience and partly to appeal to advertisers. 

As measured by ComScore, the IDG Network is the most viewed tech video hub globally, with 8.32 million unique visitors in May of this year. That’s a fantastic achievement for a platform that was only launched in full in April, and speaks to the understanding of its audience that IDG has. 

But there is an issue that Friedenberg believes IDG has yet to solve, if only because it’s one the entire B2B space is still grappling with:

“I don’t think anyone has really solved mobile just yet, from a monetisation perspective. Facebook absolutely has figured it out but at the B2B level we continue to see great traffic growth in our mobile extensions, and surprisingly not at the loss of our desktop operations.

“At IDG I think we have a good strategy in place and we’ll see how it plays out between native and video, and we’re investing heavily in all platforms. But I don’t know of anyone who has said “we’ve figured out the holy grail here’ of how to monetise our mobile traffic.”

Michael Friedenberg will be speaking at B2B Media Strategies in December. Stay with TheMediaBriefing or click through here to follow along with the event or to book tickets.