ABM Executive Forum recap: Drive recurring revenue

Oct. 24, 2012 -- While data and business information services may offer long-term profits and steady revenue for b-to-b media companies, they also require a willingness to adapt to a new business model. It’s not simply a matter of doing the same things on new platforms, it’s a change in mindset and skillset.

Fortunately, b-to-b media companies are well positioned to capitalize on data and business information models if they so choose. Among the takeaways:

*ABM CEO Clark Pettit kicked off the conference by saying in all industries, “old models break before new models take root.”

*A new joint mobile study from ABM/Outsell found that while monetization of mobile isn’t a top priority for b-to-b media quite yet, 20 percent of respondents said they implemented paid mobile models within the last year. No respondents went from a paid to free model.

*Opening night keynote speaker and Bloomberg Chief Content Officer Norm Pearlstine said that customer focus is what drives recurring revenue. Pearlstine also said print still has life in some situations, particularly as a branding tool. Pearlstine went so far as to predict that in five years, there will be three print weeklies remaining: The Economist, Time Magazine and Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

*In a roundtable discussing whether data and business intelligence are worth more than advertising, HG Data Company Director Tim Baskerville said, “If I was an investor and I was looking at a $50 million company that took most revenue from advertising, and a $50 million company that took most revenue from recurring revenue streams, I would put my money in recurring revenue.”

*In a session on Creating a Community of Paid Members, GigaOM VP Michael Wolf said, “If you’re switching to a paid model, educate your customers on what you’re doing and why.” Wolf also said that “individual wallets and enterprise customers can co-exist” in a paid content model.

*Craig Baxter, managing director of HDI for United Business Media, said the number one reason people join HDI isn’t exclusive research or training but networking.

*In the session Corporate Licensing and Subscriptions: The REAL Paid Content Opportunity, ALM CEO Bill Carter and The Deal President and CEO Kevin Worth emphasized that business information is a product business that requires a customer service mindset, 24/7. Carter also said that it takes about six months to get an ad sales staff up to speed on how to sell content services and another six to 12 months to start seeing returns.

*However, a successful paid content and data business is doable, as exemplified by Equipment Data Associates, a division of Randall-Reilly. One-third of Randall-Reilly’s EBITDA now comes from subscriptions or data services, said EDA president Bill Ault in the session Sources for Data Revenue: End-User Products and Marketer Products.

By Matt Kinsman