Sunday, February 7, 2010

Media in the Middle

In a recent interview with Naomi Reiter of eMedia Vitals I talked about the need for B2B media companies to increasingly focus on building and sustaining professional communities. Certainly the need for a media firm to be a trusted source for credible and relevant news and analysis remains vital. But the future of this business requires much more:

eMV: In what direction do you see the industry moving?

McKenna: The entire nature of B2B media is changing. In the past, it was largely built around a model of “informing” markets or readers. Magazines and events were largely built around disseminating information, and “social networks” were a secondary consideration. But the Web has made information a commodity. News distribution and analysis is not, in itself, a competitive advantage any longer.

The future of the business is more about “communitizing” markets. I’m not talking about social media, but using all elements of a media platform—both high tech and high touch—to effectively engage with audiences to help them solve their business and professional challenges.

eMV: Can you give an example?

McKenna: e.Republic has launched several very narrowly focused “gated communities” of government IT professionals. These communities address specific business challenges faced by their members. Our role is to facilitate this community of professionals through a number of different services, including conducting specific research on topics of concern to them, providing expert analysis and hosting both online and in-person forums or leadership networks. By building these communities in a way that dynamically engages both readers and advertisers, we’ve been able to effectively monetize these efforts.

Yes, publishing information remains important, but the future of business media centers on being much more engaged with our audience and delivering greater practical value to them. Media comes from the Latin word for “middle”. I like to say that the new model is about “media in the middle,” meaning that the role of media brands should focus on building and sustaining professional communities. Successful media companies have always done this to some degree; however, it is central to our mission going forward.

eMV: Has the paradigm shifted permanently?

McKenna: No question. A media company can’t just assume that it is delivering value to its audience. All the discussion over what or if readers will pay for content is evidence of this. What is the real value my media company brings to the market? It’s a tough question to ask. A media firm needs to have a clear-eyed view of what value it’s delivering to both readers and advertisers. Once you start down the road in answering this question, you’re looking at entirely new business models.

The entire interview can be found here.

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