‘Weird Al’ has a lesson for business journalists

Old-school media master ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic has moved more nimbly into the age of the Internet than many marketers who were in diapers when Weird Al was parodying Michael Jackson and Madonna. Publications as diverse as Ad Age and The Atlantic have been writing about his Web-savvy “eight videos in eight days” campaign, out this week promoting his latest album, Mandatory Fun.

And in the last of the eight videos released, Weird Al offers a cautionary lesson to business professionals — and if I may presume a bit, to business journalists — with his new track, titled “Mission Statement,” which first appeared on the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog. The song features all the cliches, catch phrases and jargon that business writers would do well to avoid. Several of my own pet peeves were among those called out by Weird Al: “at the end of the day,” “cross-platform innovation,” “bleeding edge and next generation” and “incentivized” — even if a couple of those are reasonable in moderation, surely we hear too much of them at conferences and in the our own publications.

'Weird Al' Yankovic urges business professionals to avoid buzzwords and cliches.

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic takes aim at business jargon and corporate-speak in his latest video and song, “Mission Statement.”

Actually, in addition to “Mission Statement,” another of Weird Al’s latest songs is word-focused as well. Last week, he released a video and song, called “Word Crimes,” just for grammar nerds, singing about the perils of its/it’s, serial commas, less/fewer and the correct use of quotation marks.

We ignore Weird Al at our peril!

By Michael Moran Alterio

Event type diversity varies widely by company size

Taking a deep look at the kinds of events that media companies operate, ABM’s Event Council has completed preliminary research that revels some striking results: The types of events that companies produce vary widely depending on the size of the media company.

In the United States b-to-b events drive a big plurality of total industry revenue. Event revenue constituted 45 percent of the entire b-to-b media and info landscape in 2013 (the remaining 55 percent is comprised of print magazines, digital media, and database/information products). That revenue is keeping pace with inflation and a bit more; event revenue increased industry-wide last year, rising 3.3 percent from $11.66 billion in 2012 to $12.04 billion in 2013.

But it is a mistake to think of “business events” as a monolith. Even a broad characterization of events as “conferences” and “trade shows” fails to distinguish among the many kinds of events. The research polled ABM member companies and determined the percent of total event revenue that is generated by each kind of event.

B-to-B event revenue by event type, 2014

This weighted-by-total-event-revenue pie chart primarily reflects the priorities of the largest companies. And the overwhelming contributor to revenue is trade shows — with or without associated conferences, trade shows generate more than half of all revenue.

However, the picture shifts when considering smaller companies, those with event revenue under $25 million annually.

Event revenue breakdown by type of event for smaller companies in 2014

Medium-size companies ($5 to $25 million in annual event sales) seem to have developed niche businesses in award programs and conferences, which perhaps offer insufficient revenue to interest the largest players.

Both kinds of trade shows (and sponsored buyer events) are the tail that wags the dog for small companies that derive most of their event revenue from them. Training, single-sponsor, and other events each contributed 0 percent.

These results will be further explored with further research to be conducted later in 2014. For more information about the Event Council, which is open to ABM and SIIA members generally, please contact ABM’s Elizabeth Reid at e.reid@abmmail.com or call her at 212-784-6359.

By Michael Moran Alterio

Two studies: Marketers will boost digital ad budgets

In the first quarter of 2013, ABM polled 74 marketers about their expectations for future B-to-B advertising. Separately, Forrester Research polled 56 marketers in the third quarter of 2013 on the same topic. The results showed some deep parallels. Here are some responses to similar questions posed in the ABM research, called The Value of B-to-B, and the Forrester research, called Q3 2013 North American B2B Marketing Budget Online Survey, reported in a white paper called Focus B2B Marketing Budget Gains On Business Outcomes To Succeed In 2014. The Business Marketing Association (BMA) was a partner in both studies.

MARKETER BUDGETS ON THE RISE

Both research projects asked marketers to estimate their future budgets:

ABM Value of B-to-B Marketer Budget Expectations

Forrester Research Marketer Budget Expectations

Both surveys show that ad budgets are on the rise. The later research shows a smaller forecasted rise, so the trendline is for continuing growth in marketer budgets, although perhaps at a decelerating pace.

DIGITAL SPENDING A PRIORITY

The two studies also asked marketers about their priorities for future spending, that is, detailing areas in which they expect to increase and decrease spending:

ABM Value of B-to-B Marketer Focus Areas

Forrester Research Marketer Focus Areas

Here too we see similar trends: Digital ad budgets are on the rise across the board. More marketers plan to decrease their traditional print advertising than plan to increase it.

One major difference: Forrester found little support for face-to-face events (30 percent plan to decrease spending vs 21 percent planning an increase), while ABM found much more support for events (only 9 percent planning to spend less, with 38 percent planning to spend more).

RESEARCH FIRM FORRESTER URGES MORE SPENDING ON RESEARCH

One major “key takeaway” not supported by either research study: Forrester emphasizes that “CMOs must focus budget choices on customer engagement,” including “thought leadership.” Deep into the report, Forrester explains this takeaway: “Forrester believes that the survey reflects more conservative responses than we will see play out in practice.” Unsupported by its own results, then, Forrester advises CMOs to prioritize regional shows over national, to optimize digital and social, and to focus content creation on thought leadership.

“Thought leadership” means “CMOs will need to concentrate content marketing efforts on independent customer-centered research.” Or in other words, independent research firm Forrester advises CMOs to spend more on independent research, based on no actual research.

In related news, McDonalds top execs urge consumers to eat more hamburgers. Also, Rolling Stone Magazine says “Like a Rolling Stone” is the greatest song of all time.

By Michael Moran Alterio

SIIA/ABM joins appeal of recent Postal Service rate hike

D14-1-28-LeDucraft postal reform legislation would dramatically increase rates for mailers

by David LeDuc, Senior Director, Public Policy, SIIA

Jan. 28, 2014 – As reported in late 2013, SIIA/ABM and other companies throughout the business media world were very disappointed that the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) announced its approval of an exigent rate increase of 4.3 percent, which combined with the previously approved CPI increase of 1.7 percent equals a 6.0 percent rate increase.

On Thursday, January 23, 2014, SIIA/ABM joined with a broad coalition of postal customers and suppliers in filing an appeal to overturn the PRC exigent rate increase. The appeal is sponsored by companies and mailer groups that represent every major class of mail and the majority of mail volume. The PRC justified the rate hike as an emergency measure to offset losses the 2007-2009 recession inflicted on the USPS. However, it is argued that the main cause of the Postal Service’s losses in recent years is the public’s increased use of the internet instead of mail, coupled with the continued inefficiency of postal service operations. The legislation as it exists was designed to prevent the Postal Service from recovering this kind of loss through above-inflation rate increases.

On the legislative front, SIIA/ABM has been working on its own, and with other mailing groups, over the last three years to pass postal legislation that will “right-size” the postal service, guard against service standard degradation, enact needed reforms and protect the current CPI-based postal rate-cap. SIIA/ABM has also been working alongside other stakeholders representing classes of mail the postal service has deemed not to meet attributable costs in order to oppose any additional rate increases of such.

Continue reading

World trends suggest Internet ads will outsell magazines and newspapers by 2015

In its latest World Magazine Trends report, worldwide magazine media association FIPP emphasizes the shift from print to digital as one of the most important revenue trends. FIPP estimates that worldwide ad revenue from digital sources currently outpaces that from print newspapers. And FIPP predicts that, globally, “Internet advertising will increase its share of the ad market from 18.4 percent in 2012 to 24.6 percent in 2015 … exceeding the combined total of newspaper and magazine advertising.” That’s for a combined worldwide media market that includes subscription and advertising revenue for print, digital and events with an aggregate size over $500 billion U.S. dollars.

The data on worldwide print vs digital b-to-b ad revenue over time shows illustrates this trend:

global print and digital ad revenue 2008-2015
*in millions of 2012 U.S. dollars.

FIPP estimates that b-to-b ad sales generally make up about 20 percent of a $100 billion global magazine market. That business-to-business market is centered in Western Europe, North America, and, to a lesser extent, Asia and the Pacific, as illustrated in this chart of market share by region:

global print and digital ad revenue market breakdown by region

FIPP World Magazine Trends 2013-14FIPP’s data dives deeply into specifics on 50-plus countries, with U.S. b-to-b data supplied by ABM. The report is available online and in print, and as a courtesy to ABM and SIIA, members can purchase the report with a 20 percent discount. For more information on FIPP World Magazine Trends 2013-14, contact FIPP’s Helen Bland by email at helen@fipp.com, and mention that you are an SIIA member.

By Michael Moran Alterio

High renewal rates offer data products resiliency vs recessions

One of the strengths of the business information segment is that business consumers of data products usually need access to data on a recurring basis, and they need the most current information available. That sets business information services as prime sources of recurring revenue for publishers of the service. Success in obtaining that recurring revenue can be measured through renewal rate, and data services are exemplified by high renewal rates. Data customers come to rely on data services and see them as essential tools; even in depressed economies, renewal rates show remarkable resiliency.

Looking at two research projects conducted independently by ABM and InfoCommerce last year, respondents offered benchmark results in line with these ideas, in the form of high renewal rates and long duration subscriptions. Surveying ABM members with significant data business, the research found 80 percent to 81 percent renewal rates on a unit basis, and 82 percent to 85 percent renewal rates on a dollar basis.

InfoCommerce’s research broke renewal down by company size. Almost a quarter of large companies (over $5 million in annual data revenue) reported renewal rates in the 85 percent to 89 percent range; 35 percent reported renewals in the 90 percent to 94 percent range; and 29 percent reported renewal rates in the 95 percent to 100 percent range. That means 86 percent of large companies report renewal rates of 85+ percent. For companies under $1 million in annual sales, 80 percent of small companies reported renewal rates in the 85+ percent range.

This benchmark result – that typical renewal rates for data products usually top 80 percent, and often edge even higher – is a point of congruence between the ABM and InfoCommerce research.

InfoCommerce also reports that the average life of a subscription is two to three years, and that may be an underestimate. If a subscribing employee leaves a company and his or her replacement purchases the data product, it may register as new subscription, although the company continues to use the service.

The hallmark of business information products is that they are resistant – albeit not immune – to tough economic circumstances. While marketers and vendors may perceive advertising budgets as fat to be trimmed as needed, or see events as luxuries that can be cancelled, data products are more commonly viewed as essential tools that are crucial to core business interests. Moreover, for that reason, as business conditions improve after a recession, data consumers tend to return relatively quickly to products that they had dropped when times were tougher.

For more information on this research and on trends in business information, download ABM’s free white paper, to be released at the end of the month, here.

By Michael Moran Alterio