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Too many ex-journos and not enough techies in management, warns former ACP boss

Morrison:

Morrison: Content needs to be more valuable

Management at most business publishers is overly dominated by journalists at the expense of tech specialists, the former boss of Australia’s biggest magazine company has claimed.

Speaking at the B2B Media Strategies conference in London, Colin Morrison – who was CEO of ACP, now part of Bauer Media, from 1995 to 1999 – suggested that publishers need to look to digital culture instead of that driven by former journalists who have risen through the management ranks.

Speaking about changing the “print-centric” B2B business model, Morrison told the audience of publishing executives that they needed to invest far more into digital research and development – and also get back to the creation of valuable exclusive content. He said: “Most companies don’t have that many people in development. Most B2B companies don’t have nearly enough tech people. You should benchmark against digital-only operators.

“We come from a world where 30 or 40 per cent of staff of a lot of B2B companies used to be journalists. It’s quite a big gap. It’s easier for a start-up to get to the right place, where 30 or 40 per cent are tech-related in some way.”

Morrison, who is now London based, has also been a senior executive at a string of major publishers in the UK including Emap, Reed Business Information, Axel Springer International and Future.

He warned that many business publishers are still too focused on print. He said: “We come from a tradition where print was more or less the only thing and everything else was only ancillary. It’s a big step that many companies have to take and get into a mindset and say that print is just one of the things we do, perhaps number five.

“The need for different skills that we don’t have, that competition is going to get much harder. We will need as an industry to do more joint ventures, more collaborating, more sharing.”

And he warned that many business publishers have forgotten the lessons of history, where their roots were in creating valuable data such as industry stats and key indicators. Instead, they began to make so much money from advertising that they didn’t need to try as hard on behalf of readers.

“During the great times of advertising, the emphasis on creating highly original, exclusive long-lasting content got lost. Most gave up on it.

“That kind of got lost. People tried less for readers. The advertising was so damn good.

“Right now we’ve got a fair bit of B2B that does not have good enough content, it’s about getting back to having content that nobody else has got.

“The best B2B businesses now have serious revenues from research, serious revenues from consulting, and in some cases serious revenue from things like executive search.

“There’s a lot of preoccupation with tweaking business models rather than going for big change. You’ve now got to be sector specialists. B2B must be completely versatile; it must be interactive; it must be R&D obsessed.”

 

Tim Burrowes in London

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