So, an evening caught up on Twitter last night got me to thinking about the role that Business to Business (B2B) media plays within industry, and how far should it go beyond the basic premise of providing a conduit between businesses — businesses that provide products and services and businesses that use those products and services.
I am pretty sure of my position on this, and, as is my nature, am going to share my thoughts here — if you feel the urge, you are more than welcome to throw in your opinions and have your say on the issues, but I would politely request that no one uses this blog as a platform for personal attacks on specific titles / personalities. And at the risk of being accused of censorship, I am stating upfront that any offensive or personal comments will be deleted. This is my blog, with no financial gain involved, my decision is final, please respect that.
Okay, with that out of the way, many of you probably are aware that I did work as an Editor on a B2B title for many years, therefore I do consider that I have significant insight into the commercial demands of this type of publication. And here is the central issue — it is a commercial operation that provides a service — to clients (advertisers) AND readers. Pretending or wishing otherwise is naive.
Editor's of B2B publications often have to walk a knife edge to achieve the right balance, keenly aware of their readership and increasing circulation with objective content, whilst cultivating relationships with advertisers, to source new information and challenge them where necessary. It's not easy, and you can never keep all of the people happy all of the time — it is an old adage, which is supported by my own experience — but with care and attention, you can keep most of the people happy most of the time.
My opinion is that B2B media offers a valid service, useful to both sides when done well.
It's the relationship between the three parties — advertisers, readers, B2B medium — that raises the interesting dynamic, because they are all completely interdependent.
The B2B model, whether in print or online, generates revenue predominantly through advertising. That's a fact. Any advertiser in any given publication is looking to generate business through the promotion of their product or service to a guaranteed audience of readers, for which there are audits. The magazine cannot exist without the advertisers, the advertisers won't place ads without readers, and the readers will fall away without decent magazine content.
It's a fairly obvious thing to say, but adverts are typically going to over hype the company, product or service it represents — it's the nature of the beast — and companies pay to do it. That said, any reader with a single ounce of common sense understands that medium. The editorial content, however, has to be different — it has to be both credible and tactful — a source of information that is valuable to the reader without alienating magazine clients. By its very nature, a B2B publication will focus on a specific industry sector, and as such needs to cover the breadth of its industry as impartially as possible, to offer constructive information, that informs the reader, from as many angles as possible, with what he/she needs to improve their own business. My opinion is that it is the Editor's primary responsibility to take the breadth as wide as possible to ensure credibility, that, along with keeping abreast of the latest breaking news. For me a B2B publication needs to offer breadth over depth, and where depth is required, it will seldom be within the remit of the Editor, who then looks to independent industry experts to supply what is required. The independence is highlighted because this is what is required — by advertisers and readers — to maintain integrity in the long term.
When difficult questions arise, which they invariably do, then a B2B platform can offer a professional and positive forum to debate the issues at hand — this often leads to new ideas and extending networks. It can get heated, it can even turn nasty, but the majority of people tend to have the perspective to understand the dynamics and the manners to agree to disagree where necessary.
When a B2B title works for an industry, there is no better place to be to get the big picture.
Writing about all this is making me feel nostalgic — and just a little sad that I'm out of the game.