Is there something beyond the usual media revenue models--also known as banners, keywords, subscriptions, streaming video and tradeshows? If there were they were missing in action at PaidContent's Future of Business Media conference in New York.
I wasn't expecting something huge--if it were that big of a deal executives weren't going to blab it at a conference of peers. But just a smidge of a new idea would have been helpful.
Here's a look at some of the bright ideas coming from Bob Carrigan, CEO of IDG Communications worldwide; Gordon Hughes II, president and CEO of American Business Media; Gordon McLeod, president of the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and Elisabeth Sami, senior vice president of global business development at CNBC. The panel basically echoed an emerging theme at the conference: Subscriptions and events are models that can offset an ad downturn.
- Tradeshows: Events are the profit maker for a lot of media companies, but you have to wonder how long that'll last with travel budgets getting squeezed. Carrigan said IDG is producing shows, custom awards programs and vendor roadshows. McLeod added that smaller is better. For instance, the Journal has sold out next year's AllThingsD conference. Hughes added that he's worried about the big tradeshows. "I see a chink in large trade shows. The big tradeshows I'm a little nervous about," said Hughes. Elephant in the room: Are smaller more focused tradeshows really going to be immune from the travel budget cuts?
- Leads: Carrigan briefly touched on generating sales leads. No one else did. That's a missed opportunity. Carrigan noted that the ad revenue is going to "areas where there's clear ROI." Elephant in the room: Can these guys deliver the leads demanded by advertisers?
- Subscriptions: Let's just say McLeod was a bullish on subscription revenue--notably the WSJ.com and Factiva--and he has a point. CNBC's Sami echoed that point and talked about copying the network's cable model on fees with on satellite radio. CNBC also has launched subscription services via CNBC.com. Elephant in the room: Will folks continue to pay for subscription services in a down economy?
Other ideas--behavioral targeting, streaming video and the mobile Web--were briefly tossed around, but it's not like you haven't heard those before. In other words, there were no eureka moments. And the biggest elephant in the room was pointed out by McLeod: As these media giants explore interactive media they haven't figured out how to match the "profitability and scale of our core business."