Veteran Aviation Week editor talks success in b-to-b
Velocci recently chatted with ABM about his tenure in the b-to-b media industry -- what's changed, what's on the horizon and what's needed to succeed today, including delivering the most important aspect of b-to-b content today—the “why.”
ABM: Looking back, what would you say were the highlights of your career at Aviation Week?
Tony Velocci: Certain events will forever stand out as I reflect on my career at Aviation Week, starting with the once-in-a-lifetime experience of leading the coverage of an entire industry’s transformation in the relatively short span of a decade. By winning the respect and trust of an extensive network of sources, I was able to break many big stories and bring clarity and deep insight into what was happening on both a tactical and a strategic level.
Also on the list would be flying with the Air Force Thunderbirds—and being recognized by the team for pulling 9.2Gs without losing my breakfast!—and creating Aviation Week’s Top-Performing Companies study. The annual TPC analysis is a methodology for measuring the relative competitiveness (operationally) of publicly traded aerospace companies and airlines globally. Introduced in the mid-1990s, the study has undergone continuous refinements and remains a widely respected tool that many companies use as a benchmark.
ABM: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in b-to-b media?
Velocci: The biggest change, of course, has to be the impact of the digital revolution, including the introduction and incredibly rapid spread of mobile communications. This change alone has forced information-service providers to re-think their business and editorial strategies, and re-define what it means to serve a professional audience.
While Aviation Week’s readers have generally been relatively slow to adopt digital communications—ironic, given the high-tech nature of aerospace and defense—that situation has begun to change within the last year or so. Anticipating this trend, we developed iPad and online versions that include interactive rich-media features tied to print articles.
ABM: How has the role of editorial changed in b-to-b media? What skillsets are necessary today that maybe weren’t as important when you started?
Velocci: Certainly one of the biggest changes has been the devaluation of news—it has become largely a commodity. No longer is it sufficient to inform your readers what happened. Of the five Ws—who, what, where, when, why—it is ‘why’ that is most important. Content must be unique if you expect to monetize it, and the only way to make content unique—except for genuine scoops—is to provide readers with deep insight, context and perspective they will get nowhere else. Content must be compelling if you expect to sustain an information-services business.
A journalist’s tool kit today is from when I entered the profession in 1969. There was no Internet or social media, and except for live radio and television broadcasts, there was no such thing as instant news. As I tell my daughter who wants to be a journalist in the b-to-b world (the energy field), her facility with digital media—including the use of data and analytics—must be at least as good as any of her other journalism skills.
What hasn’t changed is what makes an outstanding journalist: crisp, clean, accurate writing; a natural inquisitiveness; persistence and tenacity in pursuing a story; an ability to work on deadline; and personal and professional fulfillment from the creative process. A thick skin doesn’t hurt either.
ABM: Look into your crystal ball. What is the future of b-to-b media?
Velocci: In a global economy that is becoming more connected everyday, b-to-b media has never been more essential. And it will become increasingly vital as companies try to figure out how to grow their businesses in an increasingly competitive environment.
I believe print will continue to play an important role. However, I do expect digital subscriptions to dominate in the delivery of b-to-b information.
ABM: What challenges are on the horizon?
Velocci: There are two: first, figuring out the optimum balance between paid and free content that allows you to grow revenue sufficiently to expand the enterprise. The second is holding onto the resources required to produce a quality product for which customers are willing to pay—no easy task in a resource-constrained world.
ABM: What was the motivation for the re-launch of Aviation Week & Space Technology?
Velocci: This was not about cosmetics; it was about delivering significantly more print and digital content to our defense and commercial aviation audiences.
Twice a month, AW&ST now publishes two different editions. One is the AW&ST readers around the world already know. The other includes a special select-distribution section providing additional coverage in one of two areas: defense technology and MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul). The re-launch also included an enhanced digital edition that subscribers receive earlier, making our content timelier.
ABM: What’s next for you?
Velocci: Aerospace is in my blood. It is one of the most dynamic, fast-paced industries in the world, so I can’t imagine not being engaged in it in some way. I look forward to doing a lot more writing than I was able to do as editor-in-chief. I also expect to continue to remain active on several non-profit aerospace-related boards to which I belong. The one thing that my future plans probably do not include is writing a book.
By Elizabeth A. Reid