Platforms are irrelevant. What do customers really want?

Today in media, it’s all about the audience. Audience data leads to audience understanding which leads to audience relationships, which ultimately leads to profits (ABM’s Spring Conference focused on “The Customer-Driven Future,” and in his five points on how b-to-b companies can discover their “why,” ABM CEO Clark Pettit said, “All roads lead to data—any interaction with customers should be about getting further information about what that customer wants and needs”).

B-to-B (and most media, really) has historically been guilty of building a product, then trying to find an audience to sell that product to. Unlike many of the magic bullets that all media has embraced as the next quick-fix (digital advertising, user-generated content, marketing services, etc.), the “audience” phenomenon is important because it isn’t a product or a platform—it’s the path to real solutions. Just because your product is sold over iTunes rather than the corner newsstand doesn’t automatically make it more valuable. What does your app offer—the same old content in a new package or actionable solutions when customers need it?

ABM’s upcoming Executive Forum (“Drive Recurring Revenue: Paid Content + Business Information Models”) looks at how media companies are applying that customer understanding to products and services. Data as a product certainly has value (at the recent CEIR Predict conference, VSS Founding Partner John Suhler spoke of data businesses posting high single-digit growth over the last 20 years, and trying to get b-to-b media to embrace the opportunity until he was “blue in the face.”) But data and business information as a product is warranted only if the customer needs it—and the media company can deliver in a way that offers value.

Speaking on a session called “Corporate Licensing and Subscriptions,” ALM’s CEO Bill Carter will focus on not just selling content products at the corporate level, but how that customer understanding is leading to new product development and monetization. “Online and mobile is definitely the wave of the future,” said Carter in a recent interview with ABM. “But there’s still a lot of experimentation to be done on the proper ways to monetize it. I’m a big believer, especially for a vertical business like ALM who’s targeting specific groups of legal professionals, that opportunities do exist in in subscriptions for content. Coming from that information background, one of the things that we are thinking about a lot here is, ‘How do we take what we do on a daily basis — this news, this real-time information coming in — how can you aggregate that information, analyze it and produce insights and results for our targeted professionals? If you do that it allows you to expand into new products and offerings, and those can give you opportunities for subscription products.”

For Financial Times’ managing director of the Americas, Andrew Sollinger (appearing on a session called “Are Data and Business Intelligence Worth More Than Advertising?), the real value of data and business information for FT isn’t as a sellable product, but the potential to embed the FT’s brands and products deeper into both the end-user and advertiser workflow.

“We put a tremendous priority on data intelligence for our content and advertising revenue streams,” Sollinger said in a recent video interview with ABM. “In this digital age, we have a tremendous amount of intelligence on our advertisers — how campaigns are performing, of course, but who is interacting with those campaigns. Also, since we can track content use by specific users and specific licenses, we are able to determine where we have strong audiences. Data in intelligence is integral to the growth of both our advertising and content businesses.”

By Matt Kinsman

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