In 2013, business media companies are following the maxim that what does not kill one makes one stronger, taking full advantage of the restructurings, downsizing and hard-won lessons of the recession as they ramp up for growth.
Growth projections for the b-to-b media/events/information sector are positive, ranging from 3% to 5% annually for the next few years. But those forecasts assume business media companies will continue to operate leanly, broaden their revenue streams beyond print and online display advertising, implement digital- and mobile-first approaches to content, expand marketing services to regain budgets lost to marketers’ own websites and social media efforts, and invest in technologies to better manage and analyze data.
Andrew Weber, CEO of Farm Journal Media, said the agriculture vertical did well during the recent recession, especially compared with 2003 and 2004 when consolidation caused ad spending to be cut in half. “First we hunkered down,” he said. “Then we had to change our entire mindset and culture.”
Unlike agriculture, the construction industry—which is Hanley Wood’s sole sector—is just emerging from a deep and prolonged recession. Surviving this period required “a dramatic focus on the cost side,” said Peter Goldstone, who was Hanley Wood’s president until November 2010, when his own position was cut to save money. He then moved to Atlantic Media (which he calls “digital media boot camp”) as president of Government Executive. After a financial restructuring of Hanley Wood in early 2012 put new ownership in place, cut long-term debt and infused new capital, Goldstone rejoined the company as CEO last April.
Culturally, Hanley Wood “is probably going through the most radical transformation I can envision for any traditional b-to-b media company,” Goldstone said. New executives brought in to help lead that transformation include Bob Benz, president of content, who brought a decade of experience on the interactive side of E.W. Scripps’ newspapers; Dave Colford, chief revenue officer, who honed his tech media sales talents at Geeknet, Ziff Davis, CMP (now UBM Tech) and IDG’s InfoWorld; and Sarah Welcome, senior VP-audience operations, who also worked at Geeknet and IDG.