This article first appeared in Press Gazette
Those few of you poor souls who have been reading my media recruiting column over the last year or so will have noticed one thing: I am an eternal optimist. While in these dark days of enforced austerity it is difficult to be upbeat, I have a small chink of light for you. Particularly for those of you who have spent the last several years toiling away in the geekier recesses of B2B media.
The bulk of the work we are currently carrying out is on information services: data-driven, subscription-funded providers to key sectors of industry. Colleagues in the recruitment business have noticed the same thing: “It’s all about analysts at the moment,” says Allan Cross of the Media Network. He is working for a number of information providers, across the energy, financial, and wider industrial sectors. Other than data recruiting, Cross says, it is “pretty quiet” at the time of writing.
So why are clients putting in so much investment to this sector at the moment, even when they are drawing back in other areas? “Subscription is the only reliable source of income these days,” Cross says.
And it is true that, while online advertising is usually cited as being the only sector of media spend that is growing, confidence in advertising as a funding model has been massively hit by the recession. After previous recessions, advertising recovered because of limited channel options, but fragmentation of media and a crisis in confidence amongst consumers has led many to question whether the model is sustainable in the long term.
As a result, publishers have looked to other approaches. And it is astonishing how many have discovered the assets under their own noses. Been writing about transport for 100 years? That’s an archive. Been tracking the occupancy of hotel rooms for twenty years? That’s a dataset. Been covering the spot price of oil? That’s an information service. B2B news organisations have realised that the model of the newswires – that people are prepared to pay a premium for information they can’t work without – is now equally applicable to them.
We have long had clients in the more traditional information and research industries. But media companies such as RBI, Emap, Euromoney, Informa, and Incisive are increasingly moving their products towards this model. News International is trying to apply the same approach to the consumer markets, but lacks the action-critical data that B2B services can offer. The upshot is that journalists and analysts in the B2B sector – who have long toiled in the shadow of their seemingly more glamorous consumer counterparts – now seem to have the brighter future.
The point is actually fundamental: it is the quality of the content that is paramount and commercially exploitable. For the lucky geeks amongst you, then, welcome to the sunlit uplands!