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Opportunities & Threats: B2B Media

The future of B2B lies in serving your sector in three connected ways: information, intelligence and events.

By Colin Morrison

Opportunities & Threats: B2B Media

In search of the Golden Triangle…

Whisper it but the internet increasingly seems like a mixed blessing. With all the obvious benefits, come the risks, dangers and hassles. Even B2B media, which have come to take for granted the web-charged global opportunities for the smallest of companies, must also cope with the snowballing web competition for time and money – and unreliable content providers.

For B2B media, the big issues are less the digital monsters which dominate online advertising, than the challenges to audience retention and a willingness to pay for content posed by the seemingly limitless resources of the web.

The need to captivate reader-users has spurred the growth of an increasing number of single-sector, global B2B specialists. In the UK, we can see these “vertical” specialists thriving in a range of sectors including agriculture, law, finance, transport, travel, and procurement.

But many of these “narrow but deep” companies have developed strongly during a period when some media “channels” have been dominated by other specialists. For example, many of the world’s major exhibitions are owned by events-specific companies rather than information providers.

The trade show companies (many of the leaders of which are British or Continental European) have enjoyed unprecedented growth in revenue, profits – and valuation – during a period of digital disruption everywhere else in B2B media. What once had been a mere ancillary of so many publishing companies is the best performing B2B “channel” of all.

But even the best of these exhibition specialists are now wondering how they too might face disruption. They are beginning to diversify into information and data to build customer loyalty and maintain year-round relationships.

This slowly emerging trend points to a new reality where I believe virtually all B2B media must increasingly serve individual sectors in three connected ways:

  1. Exclusive information, statistics, indicators, research, pricing and workflow systems that are vital to companies.
  2. News and intelligence about their sector which may be an aggregation of multiple sources – to save reader-users from having to scour the web themselves.
  3. Events including exhibitions, conferences, workshops, training, and social events which satisfy the need of professionals to make face-to-face contact with their peers, competitors, customers and would-be customers.

Increasingly, B2B companies will need to operate across all three areas in order to retain “control” of their audiences with “must have” information and events. This “Golden Triangle” strategy (already familiar to many single-sector specialists) will help B2B media to become indispensable.

Given the strength of the exhibition companies, one result of Golden Triangle ambitions will be their acquisition of publishing and data companies in markets where they operate trade shows. B2B will get a lot hotter.

Even the best of these exhibition specialists are now wondering how they too might face disruption.

This article was first published in the Publishing Partners Guide 2020, which was distributed with the January / February issue of InPublishing magazine.