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 / Spring 2012 / Issue 66(originally published by Booz & Company)


The Thought Leader Interview: Bob Carrigan

Let’s say you’re in our database because you downloaded an app — either Tech Briefcase or something more specific, like the CIO or Computerworld app. You have the right to unsubscribe at any time, but as long as we respect you and send you highly targeted and relevant content, you won’t unsubscribe. As we filter material for you, we capture more and more information about you. We’re not taking advantage of you; we’re earning your trust.

Suppose we learn that you’re responsible for buying storage systems for your company. You’re interested in cloud computing solutions and virtualization strategies. We know that you need information, and that you talk to vendors as part of your job. So we introduce you to sponsors that have the exact information that you’re looking for, and we charge each sponsor for that introduction. We also have fee-based offerings, such as the CIO Executive Council; IT executives meet there and interact with peers. As our specific and targeted data about you grows over the years, always with your permission, we can create very focused programs aimed at your particular needs. Wouldn’t you expect advertisers like IBM and Citibank to be interested in that?

One Jump across the Chasm

S+B: How important is the social media aspect of your business — putting your users in touch with one another?
Our programming strategy is based on a three-legged stool: social, editorial, and vendor content. The number one source that users go to for information about what to buy is social: their knowledgeable friends and colleagues. Editorially driven information ranks second. Our readers have always told us they want to talk with one another. Our readers include many influential end users, as we call them, who give more advice than they receive. So it’s important to unlock better ways to connect them.

That’s why we’re aggressive about embracing outside social networks, which have become an important part of audience generation for us. We have the largest CIO community on LinkedIn, with almost 45,000 registered members. Search engines are still by far the most common way that people find IDG media, but social media generates 10 percent of our inbound traffic. We’re creating a lot of programs around social media, by building sub-communities.

Editorial content — authoritative and trusted writing — is more important than it ever has been. Some of our editors are highly opinionated critics of the industry, whereas others are more focused on reviews, but they are all important for drawing people in. They also participate in the user conversations, often as hosts. Anyone can find conversations on Facebook, but our brands focus those conversations on specific topics with trusted journalists at the core.

The right vendor content is also important, and not just for revenue. Our audience wants to know what products are available from them and how they fit. The value in vendor content comes from contextual presentation: If you see a conversation on Twitter about virtualization, with white papers from vendors on virtualization next to it, that’s a very valuable service.

S+B: What does a media company — or, for that matter, any marketing company — need to develop organizationally to experiment like this?
They have to change their mind-set: to rethink and rebuild their ways of delivering content and advertising, and connecting with their prospects. Media companies have to become more like technology companies. The way I put it at the annual IAB meeting in 2011 was: “Instead of downplaying or doubting the value of that 28-year-old wunderkind sitting next to you in his blue jeans, with his $40 billion market cap, 50 times stock multiple, and army of hotshot VC financiers, embrace him and embrace what he stands for.”

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