Well a few months on and we’re finally getting there on the social media front. Thanks to a new marketing manager we now have Google+, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages for all our products and sites. In fact today we ran our first webinar on Sourcing apparel from China, and we tweeted highlights live via the hashtag #jsevent!
We’ve also managed to roll out a quick upgrade to our mobile sites – they are so much easier to use with the cleaner design – see http://m.just-drinks.com/index.aspx
Next up, more webinars, upgrading the CRM system, more social media integration and the launch of several YouTube channels.
Exciting times in the digital publishing world.
Wow, time flies and since my first post in mid 1999 what has changed in the B2B publishing world?
Social is huge, and actually tools have developed so that following and publishing across the many channels is easier than before. So I now have a Google+ account, a twitter feed, a Quora account, a LinkedIn account and a blog. Plus, I use Facebook (like many, I dislike many things about Facebook, but it is so addictive). At first I mixed business with pleasure (particularly on Twitter and Facebook), but now I’ve realised that I should keep the two apart as much as possible. I now only use Facebook for my personal life and the rest are tools for business.
Advertising is still a huge issue for publishers – ever lower CPM rates, more engagement required and advertisers insisting on greater bottom-line visibility. Not a bad thing, just not easy to achieve.
The job market is so so. I know of some companies who relied heavily on print recruitment ads that took a bath. Thankfully, they’ve managed to turn the problem around and been forced into investing in online. Like advertising though, sadly the returns drop massively when you move from offline to online.
News schmooze – or the fact people just don’t want to pay for news – is an issue that just hasn’t gone away. Although plenty of newspapers have grasped the nettle and put up paywalls. Typically they see a loss of 99% in traffic. This particular issue has sparked lots of innovation – with some help from Google.
We’ve made some huge steps in the research market, and I’m proud to say we’ve had tremendous success with our real-time research database “QUBE by just-auto“. It basically merges news with analysis, data and research to provide online reports that are updated as the news changes. Lots of smart automotive companies are signing up! Thank you to them for their support.
We also redesigned our main automotive, food, drinks and apparel sourcing web sites to show off more of our “insight” pieces including interviews, commentaries and analyses. The new look went down very well with subscribers and we’ve managed to continue to grow our corporate customers.
One thing that took off based on listening to customers was the need for quick custom answers. After several successful research projects we launched a small consultancy operation called CONSULT. It works just like a normal consultancy, only we’re normally quicker and more cost effective (cheaper!).
Perhaps just as big as the social media scene has been the growth in tablets and smart phones. Remember our previous effort at mobile? We’re now just at the point of redesigning it again! This will be a stop-gap as we look to THE NEXT BIG THING… responsive design. Hopefully our web site, tablet site and mobile site will all be based off the same code base using Responsive Design techniques. I have to say a huge amount of respect to the folks behind the BostonGlobe.com site. Wow!
And that kind of brings me to where we are today…
Challenges remain on monetising content, advertising and jobs revenue, design, social media, research and let’s not forget… just like in mid-1999 – the economy and cable. Come on Europe – get your act together and help us all out!
Over and out for now.
OK, so you get to make one first impression and as this is the first blog post, I guess this is it!
No pressure then.
You don’t need to care about who I am or what I do, or even what I think or believe. But if you choose to listen and want to discuss here’s where I’m coming from…
1) This blog is my business persona. It’s not about Richard Jackson the father/husband, the (crap but enthusiastic) footballer, the energetic party host… it’s me as the techie/marketing guy that had a few good ideas, got lucky and did quite well.
2) So on that note, I run a company called Aroq with my business partner Mike Gove. We have CEO/COO titles, but basically we share decision making and, surprisingly sometimes, manage to agree on the way forward. We’re both tech heads (although both hate programming now) and every so often one of us will be playing with some new tool or bit of code. But our main goal and input is to consider how to make money off the net running four B2B portals. Something we’ve been doing since 1999.
3) Issues I’m currently grappling with…
a) Advertising fell off a cliff.
This is hurting lots of sites and print titles already. No need to rehash anything here. If you’re in the sector you’ll know it’s bloody out there. I’ve already seen some competitors like Automotive News Europe shut down. The accounts of the holding company of the Drinks Business don’t look too clever. Events wise, attendance is down, so are revenues. This is not me having a dig at my competition. It’s just the reality that a lot of money has disappeared from the B2B world. I’m thankful that whilst we offer advertising, we also implemented a paid subscription model back in 2001.
b) Job market followed advertising.
This one took us a little by surprise – in fact we’re about to go live with a new recruitment service on our sites (ouch!). Still, we managed to pull the project back and rethink it in time to avoid the damage. A lot of wasted tech resource but for now we have something we can live with. Again, I think we’re lucky that jobs revenue isn’t a major source of income.
c) Information overload?
Since following twitter, google reader, email on Blackberry, Linked-in, private email, Facebook … well let’s just say I don’t know how: a) anyone gets anything done, and b) can keep up with with everything out there. And so when I set this blog up weeks ago I had all good intentions, but just haven’t had time to post. I hope I’m not the only one that feels like this.
So now I check my google reader about once a week (it inevitably has thousands of posts I don’t look at). Twitterfox is just about manageable but if I’m out of the office, I usually fail to catch up on the 300 backed up tweets. Linked-In is important as is my email, so that does get my attention. This can’t go on though – I feel like I’m drowning in a flood of data (sorry, overused metaphor – lazy). Whilst following twitter does reveal some great insight (thanks to the likes of Neil Thackery, #rev2oh and Rory Brown) for me most of it is just a distraction. So I can read about the NYT, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune… but once the theme has been established I don’t need to keep following every story to understand the issue around news being ubiquitous and hard to monetise.
d) News – so what?
My news consumption is based on the BBC site for news (free and great quality). I don’t read newspapers and use SKY 501 red button to get a news hit just before I go to sleep at night. That’s enough news for me so I certainly won’t be looking to pay for more. Micropayments, the Kindle, the iPhone… sorry, these are just channels/grasps at the last few straws. I don’t have an answer to how you monetise general news. Even down on the, relatively, specialist level of B2B news we’re seeing the same stories appear in many places – google news, competitor sites etc. So you break a story, but 10 minutes later someone else has rewritten it and put it out on twitter. You get all the cost, for little gain. I think the B2B companies that are doing well are realising they are in the information game – and that tools that make people’s lives easier at work are the way forward. It’s a basic thing but B2B companies should really get to know their audience and understand what they value. Simple, old-fashioned marketing.
e) The research market
One of the ways we make money at Aroq is to resell other people’s research reports. The likes of Euromonitor and Datamonitor. Again, not coming from a publishing background Mike and I thought it perfectly logical to try and offer our customers (readers) useful services in a single place. I’m not talking hotel booking or travel but a central place to find all research on your industry – that could work. Unfortunately we’ve seen the market steadily decline as the publishers have moved online and increased their presence. What’s more important though is the shift away from ad hoc research purchases to annual contract subscriptions. Publishers love them and negotiate them direct. When most of your customers sign up to these systems you can bet they have little money left over for ad hoc reports. There’s also the issue of real-time data. If a company post their results, the company profile should reflect that. Now add in quarterly earnings, any major announcements and that simple company profile you sell for sub £100 suddenly costs you £500 to maintain each year. Of course you can sell 5 or more copies to make a profit – but when you then cover 5000 companies the numbers don’t look so hot. So balancing real-time data with a static publishing model such as a report is an interesting problem.
f) Design trends
Visualisation is in. Big images, fonts, white space are all in. Gradients and transparency are in. So to keep your site looking fresh and useable it is important to keep on top. I find it fascinating that the likes of Linked In, Facebook, Digg, Mozilla, Twitter all have a look and feel about them let’s you now that you’re using something new (although I realise Digg and Mozilla have been around for years).
g) Tech, the cloud and mashups
At Aroq we’ve been firm believers in building everything ourselves from hand written code. It was the only way we could implement some of our ideas. The situation is different now though. Drupal, WordPress, Open Office, Google Mail, MS SQL services in the cloud, Ruby, Python, Ubuntu, GIMP – oh my god. Licencing software is out, open source freeware is in. Coding (to an extent) is out and mashups and objects are in. It’s like moving from manufacturing into assembly. No more big bang projects – everything is small and quick. For a small company with three tech resources (not including Mike and me) this is a major issue. Still, I quite like the fact we managed to build a beta mobile site in under 3 weeks with one full time tech resource.
h) Currency – the cable
Yes, being based in old Blighty we report and account in the GB sterling. Yet 80% of our business is in euro’s and US dollars. With major swings and moving cash between these accounts I find that I’ve suddenly become a lot more interested in where these currencies are heading.
4) OK so that’s enough for now. If you have interest in any of the above then I’m interested in a discussion. From time to time I’ll post things up here on my blog but it will usually be after we’ve tried something and I’m not looking to give away any company secrets. Here’s to the future.
You can also follow my occasional musings on www.twitter.com/wbrichard