Thursday, January 24, 2013

For most B2B magazine titles getting serious about the web is still the top priority compared to mobile & tablets

To be sure, there are a lot of really good B2B websites to be found that are published by print magazines. But while the focus the past few year or so has been on launching first mobile and tablet applications, the fact remains that for most B2B titles getting serious about the web still has to be their top priority.

Before belatedly launching their first tablet editions, the ad trade magazines, AdAge and AdWeek, both created useful, well-designed websites for their titles - and both (AdAge, in particular) have been very good at using social media to promote stories on their sites.

But these two titles are very much the exception to the rule when it comes to B2B. Most trade journals continue to struggle with the basics of web publishing such as publishing fresh, new, interesting material every day, promoting that material through Twitter and other social media outlets, using blogs to build readership and drive regular traffic, creating forums and other community features, and selling digital advertising.

Part of the problem, as any publisher will tell you, is the short staffing that is the norm at most trade journals. But the fact is that many editors continue to struggle with the basic concepts of the web, such as frequency of new material.

One of the shocks I experienced lately was looking at the media kit of a magazine group with multiple titles and learning that the group's web traffic was just a fraction of this website's traffic. With established titles, constant opportunities to promote their sites through their magazines, newsletters and mailings, one would think the group's web traffic would have dwarfed TNM – but no, mostly because the content was stale, canned, and of little interest to the industry the sites were serving.

Blogs on B2B websites are a particular problem. Most B2B titles have long since adopted the blog as a standard feature of their industry websites. But getting bloggers to write daily remains a problem. One construction website I am familiar with successfully signed up multiple bloggers to attempt to drive traffic, but sadly their bloggers could not keep up, contributing a blog post only sporadically. You don't have to have a degree in psychology to know that readers will not come back to that site regularly once they have seen a few times that no new material is available.

The construction sites, of which many of the logos can be seen above, are actually pretty good compared to many other industry segments, probably because these titles, though struggling, are still larger than many other segment leaders. There are, no doubt, many good examples of trade journals that have successfully create thriving web properties – but they remain few and far between.

Even though many would like to rush into the tablet platform, many B2Bs would still be better off working on their websites if they feel they are still lacking in this area. When talking to digital publishing vendors, a good question to put to the company would be whether their digital publishing solution would help their websites. Many digital publishing platforms are one-trick ponies that simply build an app, or  create a PDF version of their print title. While other vendors are offering content management and work flow solutions that can help a company manage web publishing, while also offering a way to launch those first mobile or tablet editions.