When Business Mags Venture Beyond Wall Street

When the well-known business magazines venture beyond Wall Street and even Main Street to find stories, don’t be surprised to see your contextual and search ads running on their august domains.

There’s a battle currently waging among publications hungry for larger online audiences. They acknowledge the need to reach site visitors who are distinct from their print readers, and are positioning themselves in different ways to grow online revenues.

At the recent Future of Business Media conference, we heard a wide range of plans and tactics discussed by Forbes and others. Magazine publishers are deciding how much to invest in more web-only content and resources, including video and other multimedia options. Like other web publishers, they are actively exploring social elements both on and off their domains.

For advertisers, all of these plans translate into more opportunities to reach responsive audiences. Publishers say they will attract more dollars from travel, tech, shopping — pretty much all the productive ad categories.

See more below, including my take on what the publishers shared this week.

Forbes: CEO/President Jim Spanfeller, Board Member Roger McNamee

They aim for “wide aperture versus narrow aperture” as the web audience is much larger with completely different demographics. People don’t have much free time, so they seek sites with a broad range of news, features, interpretative elements, etc. The brand is fully separate and distinct online. Forbes produces a mix of articles, images and video for the web. My Take: One of the earliest players in online multimedia and web-only content. We all know them for their highly-promoted Forbes slide shows related to lifestyles of the rich and famous. Let’s see how they grow from here. Text Ads: Quigo/AdSonar contextual ads; No search ads seen.

Time Inc: Chairman/CEO Ann Moore

Digital revenues are finally growing much faster than print. They still have “lots of work” to do on their digital offerings in the U.S. and are also pushing internationally. Video will be part of their focus and investment online. The crown jewel is CNN Money, which appeals to the wider audience. It gets “glorious CPMs” and is profitable. My Take: They are riding the Main Street coverage approach. The well-known Fortune brand isn’t mentioned much at all, nor getting leveraged online. Also, they decided to shutter Business 2.0 due to low performance. It will be interesting to see how their video plans pan out. Text Ads: Quigo/AdSonar contextual ads; Google search ads.

Business Week: Group President Keith Fox

They are a “liquid brand” where print content flows to online version. In addition, they include or link to content from other places. Business Week has a profitable business model, with strengths in auto, tech and finance ads. The magazine was recently redesigned, keeping in mind the multiple channels. However, they aren’t “bullish on video” right now. My Take: This brand stays relatively small, because it is sticking more closely to what we know as business news. They aren’t investing much in original web content. It’s a tough battlefield, as BW directly competes with Yahoo and other news outlets. Text Ads: Google and Industry Brains contextual ads; Business.com search ads.

The Economist: Publisher and Global Marketing Director Susan Clark

This brand reaches a high-end, global audience with a wide range of international news. The magazine is a ritual pleasure. The Economist offers the same content online, with additional news and columns to keep things fresh. While the first year of content is freely accessible, you have to pay (or be a print subscriber) to access archives and audio. Interestingly, they keep tabs on their online reputation and see Facebook communities which are self-forming about their brand — but stay away from them. My Take: This brand has a true identity. They aren’t doing anything revolutionary online, but will continue to appeal to advertisers who want to reach their small but well-heeled niche. Text Ads: Economist classifieds; No search ads seen.

Conde Nast Portfolio: Publisher David Carey

This well-funded Conde magazine is “challenging the legacy titles” with a long-term commitment. The print version covers forward thinking content, while the site is about immediate news. About 85% of content is created for the Portfolio site. The publisher says, “Advertisers like productive customers…and you’ll see good pickings from readers.” They aim for category diversity — including business, luxury, travel and lifestyles. My Take: Great out-of-the-block effort, achieving 1mm uniques on site already. Like Forbes, they threaten the status quo by re-defining business news and establishing their niche. Text Ads: No contextual or search ads seen.

Mansueto Ventures: Publisher John Koten

Better known as Inc. and Fast Company, the publisher reports a 15% increase in revenue this year, described as a turnaround. “Our success is not dependent on [the] business category,” and is not trying to be all things to all people. They are pursuing lifestyle coverage, and want to appeal to their two defined communities. Today there are Facebook efforts for Inc. and blogs for Fast Company. My Take: These brands seem more participatory than the others titles. With consistent targeting both off-line and online, they have strong prospects based on growth of their social networks. Text Ads: Google contextual ads for both; Google search for Inc; Fast Company’s own links appear on search and other pages.

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