Upcoming Webinar on Getting Your Market's Economic Scoop in Tough Times

WHAT: Getting Your Market's Economic Scoop in Tough Times

WHEN: Friday, March 27, 1:00 p.m., 60 minutes

WHO: Panelists Roy Harris, senior editor, CFO, and Steve Ross, editor, Broadband Properties, will examine how editors can cover the current economy in their publications. Attendees will learn:
  • what questions ought to be asked of sources,
  • how to analyze their market,
  • what tools editors can use to find additional information,
  • and more.

Charge: This webinar is $10.00 for all ASBPE members and $35.00 for nonmembers.

Update: Detais on the event and registration information are now available.

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Don't Let Your Best Work Be Overlooked

Photo: Martha SpizziriBy Martha Spizziri
ASBPE Web Editor

"[The niche media are] generally not involved in watchdog, exposé journalism that by its very existence is a check on malfeasance." When he hears statements like that, ASBPE president Steven Roll bristles a little.

The statement above was made by Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. He’s quoted in an article in The Washington Post that laments the shrinking of mainstream media presence of Capitol Hill and notes the corresponding increase in the number of B2B reporters there. “The thing that kind of rubbed me the wrong way is the statement that specialty publications don’t really have hard-hitting stories,” says Roll. In fact, he counters, the B2B press has produced plenty of stories that have blown the whistle on questionable practices by industry, and even helped bring about positive change.

That’s why ASBPE launched the Journalism That Matters Award this year.

The germ of the idea started several years ago at an ASBPE Washington, D.C., chapter presentation on how to win editorial awards, Roll explains. “People were mentioning stories that they were really proud of, and we were noticing that with each of these stories, there were tangible results from them.” That experience inspired former ASBPE president Rob Freedman to write the book Journalism That Matters: How Business to Business Editors Change the Industries They Cover (Marion Street Press, 2006). And the writing of the book, in turn, led to establishing the award.

“When we did the book, it was so clear that we were only skimming the surface of the great reporting that was being done in the B2B press,” says Freedman. “We wanted to recognize examples of great work that we weren’t able to include in the book.”

Roll adds, “Part of what we do as B2B journalists is, we’re involved with service journalism, so our goal is to provide useful advice to our readers. So it comes as no surprise that oftentimes the business press is a source for triggering change within a given industry. … B2B publications are the embodiment of the term ‘the devil is in the details.’ ”

What does he mean by that?

Often, he explains, “it’s the niche publications that are doing the legwork that unearth the stories the general media aren’t hearing about right away. Many [mainstream] stories have their genesis with the lesser-known specialty publications.” One recent example is the scoop by Jon Ostrower of the B2B blog Flightblogger, who broke the story about Obama’s VP pick. “He got the story out there, and he didn’t even get any credit,” Roll points out.

If your publication did reporting during 2008 that triggered change within government or industry, make sure that work isn't overlooked. Nominate it for a Journalism That Matters Award. The award is open to all forms of media — print, online, video, and audio. The winner will be recognized at the 2009 National Editorial Awards of Excellence banquet, July 16 in Washington, D.C. The deadline is this Monday, March 2.

Download an entry form for the Journalism That Matters award (456K PDF).

Martha Spizziri is a Boston-based freelance writer and is ASBPE’s web editor. She is also vice president of ASBPE’s Boston/New England chapter. She worked for many years at Reed Business Information, where she served as web editor of Modern Materials Handling, managing editor of Digital News & Review, and in various positions at Traffic Management (now Logistics Management). She has written for About.com and DC Velocity magazine. She can be reached at mspizziri@rcn.com.

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E-News Survey Finds Original Content Shortfall and Brevity Glitches

By Howard Rauch

When it comes to e-news delivery, many articles don’t adhere to published recommendations pertaining to brevity and originality. I alluded to the brevity problem in my previous blog post. Now, with two e-news studies completed, there’s more evidence that room for improvement exists.

During the past month, I conducted two separate e-news studies. The first was a pilot project involving seven e-newsletters. Each newsletter carried blurbs for five or more top news articles. I followed each link – 46 in all – to the full article appearing on the website.

Each e-news item was judged against eight factors. I’ll provide details here on the four most critical considerations: high relevance, enterprise, lead value and average sentence length.

Regarding the first factor – high relevance – various degrees of relevance exist. News items exhibiting the “high” quality provide information that conveys an important benefit or threat. Of the 46 articles reviewed, 32 made the grade, 12 earned a “no” and another four were doubtful.

Enterprise reflects evidence of original writing as opposed to reshuffling a press release. Only three of the 46 articles involved extra digging.

Lead value indicates the number of words required to arrive at a key story point. Because website visitors reportedly are scanners, each article must corral their attention within the lead’s first 10 words. Thus . . . a lead falling within the -21 to -30 range wastes 20 or more introductory words. A -5 lead would be dynamite, especially if you could do it every time.

Among the 46 article leads reviewed, 27 stayed below -10. Another 12 were in the -11 to -20 range. The other seven were higher. As an aside, some feature article evaluations have encountered several cases of -100 leads or higher. How come? It’s those verbose opening anecdotes that invariably have difficulty connecting to the story focus.

Average sentence length traditionally is a high hurdle. In my sample group, only 16 articles had ASL of 20 words or lower. Another 12 fell into the 26-30 word range. Six more had discouraging ASL’s exceeding 30 words.

Most recently, I finished a more extensive study involving 67 websites. In this case, evaluations covered the top news story highlighted on each site’s e-newsletter connection. There was evidence of enterprise in only 10 cases. This study involved Fog Index calculations, where the preferred grade-level of writing falls into the 10-12 range. Over half of the articles reviewed could not meet the challenge. Several articles clearly ran amok, ending up with grade levels above 17.

Even articles that stayed within the 10-12 range reflected too high a preference for long sentences (25 words or more). The 67 articles reviewed collectively used 975 sentences. Of that number, 336 sentences – 34.5 percent – ran 30 words and beyond.

Obviously you can’t draw a hard conclusion about lack of merit based on one news item per website. However, the four factors used for review purposes are worth employing during your next website news section post-mortem.

Howard Rauch is president of Editorial Solutions Inc., a consultancy focusing on B2B magazines. Rauch is the 2002 recipient of ASBPE’s Lifetime Achievement Award. You can contact him directly at howard@editsol.com.

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Show the World Your Work

By Paul Heney

It’s not too late to get involved in the 2009 Tabbies, and show the whole world that fantastic work that you and your team did in 2008. The international competition, supported by groups as varied as ASBPE and the Magazine Publishers Association of New Zealand, had more than 700 entries last year, and is open to all English language b2b publications, whether in the U.S. or abroad. Magazines are not required to belong to any specific association or group to be eligible.

I’ve learned so much in the five previous Tabbie competitions, and have been amazed at the talent in the b2b world, both in the U.S. and around the globe. We’ve had smaller magazines from smaller countries win huge awards, and have been able to start some dialogues between regions of the world. Please take a look at some of our past winners on the http://www.tabpi.org/ website, I think you’ll be impressed. For the vast majority of them, you can click on the entry and see a larger jpeg image or a PDF of the winner. So, when you’re thinking of what might be a potential winner in your arsenal of work, you can see how it stacks up to other entrants. This year’s deadline is March 17th.

If you have any questions about the Tabbies, please drop me an email, I’ll be happy to assist.

Paul J. Heney is editorial director for Questex Media's Hotel Group, which includes Hotel & Motel Management, Hotel Design, and Luxury Hotelier. A member of the ASBPE Cleveland Chapter board, Heney served as national president of ASPBE from 1999-2003. He is also president of TABPI, an international b2b think tank that promotes b2b journalism and professionalism. He can be emailed at pheney@questex.com.

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Substantive Content? Who Cares?

By Robin Sherman

The Wall Street Journal is closing its news research library, it has been reported; another form of cost-cutting.

Now, we have another loss of institutional research capability. Research is now left to the individual reporter using software databases, which cannot think analytically and discern context like a human. Reporters must now learn the collective knowledge of the trained librarians. The semantic web is not really here yet, and editors, librarians, journalists, even readers, still have to tag content properly so it can be found, read, and used.

How many B2B editors and writers have ever had the help of news librarians?

Robin Sherman is a principal at Robin Sherman Editorial and Design Services and associate director and newsletter editor for the ASBPE.

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2009 TABPI Young Leaders Scholarship

The 2009 TABPI Young Leaders Scholarship was created to increase interest in the B2B publishing world with younger editors who are advancing in their editorial careers.

The scholarship is sponsored by TABPI and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). The scholarship allows younger editors - who might otherwise be unable - to attend an educational B2B editorial event. This year's scholarship is to attend the ASBPE Editorial Conference, scheduled for July 15-17 in Washington, D.C. The conference contains an evening networking event on July 15, followed by two full days of intensive editorial sessions with seminars, panel discussions, and workshops targeted at editors of business, trade, and association print and Web publications.

These scholarships are open to all business editors, including print and Web, who work outside of the United States (for editors in the U.S., ASBPE sponsors a similar scholarship, please see www.asbpe.org for details).

Scholarships pay the conference and hotel room costs for up to two worthy applicants per year, along with up to $500 towards airfare costs. Transportation to and from the conference, any non-conference meals, and other incurred costs are the responsibility of the winners or their individual publishing companies. The scholarship is not transferable to other persons or events.

Applicants must meet the following qualifications:
  • Are 30 years of age or younger on or about July 15, 2009
  • Are currently a business publication editor, and have been so for a minimum of two years
  • Candidacy is sponsored by their publication's Chief Editor
  • Plan to continue in the business press as a career
  • Are not a past YLS winner
The deadline for applications is March 2. The application form is posted at www.tabpi.org/scholarship.htm. Scholarship winners will be notified on or before April 30.

A listing of winners will also be posted on the TABPI website, www.tabpi.org. If you have questions about your submission, or general questions about the scholarship, please email them to info@tabpi.org or contact TABPI President Paul J. Heney at 1-440-376-5672 (cell).

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Create a LinkedIn Group

Photo: Erin Ericksonby Erin Erickson, Chicago Chapter Vice President;
Creator of Me Media: Social Media for Non-Techies

This post is adapted from Me Media: Social Media for Non-Techies

Create a LinkedIn Group

If you are part of an association or group that is considering creating an online networking community, consider a LinkedIn Group. (Don't forget to check out ASBPE's LinkedIn Group)

A LinkedIn Group is slightly different than a social networking site.

Where as a social networking site will let you customize your content, a LinkedIn Group follows LinkedIn's formula and templates.

A LinkedIn Group is a great option if you don't want to have to deal with back-end coding, widget/badge creation, or too much maintenance. Similar to a social networking site, you can provide multiple people with administrative rights (which allows them to decline or approve requests, additions, etc.).

A LinkedIn Group allows you to post articles, feeds, discussions and events. Similar to a social networking site, you can also set your parameters to allow e-mails to be sent if someone poses a question, joins, etc.

Creating a LinkedIn Group is fairly easy:
  • First and foremost, you must be a member of LinkedIn. If you're a professional anything in this day and age, you should be on LinkedIn. There are dozens of critics of LinkedIn and its relevance, but I wouldn't listen to them.

  • Consider the current groups available. If there are 17 different groups around kitchen and bath design, do you really want to add another one into the mix? Also consider what your group will provide its members that is different than the other groups.

  • Consider your group name. You may think the Mr. Robotos sounds unique, but LinkedIn has a lot of members. You'll want to search the Groups Directory to make sure no one else has used the name.

  • Create your Group. Once you've figured out your name, click the "Create a Group."

  • Fill in the Required Information. You'll be asked to include a Group Logo, Group Name, Group Type and Summary. When writing your summary, it is best to include a brief synopsis of the goals of the group (i.e., a place for members of the journalism community to connect, share best practices, etc.). You'll need to include your e-mail address or the one of the person who will be the group owner. I am the group owner of several LinkedIn Groups and all that has meant is that I get the requests to join when someone asks. You can also select items such as displaying the group in the groups directory, allowing members to display your group's logo on their own profile page and/or allowing people to join without asking first.
Depending on your group you may want to require everyone who requests to join be approved by you or other group administrators first. If you're concerned about competitors or non-desirables infiltrating your group this is a good option. However, if you want an open-door policy, then you'll want to click on the box to allow anyone to join the group.

Me Media: Social Media for Non-Techies (emediaconsulting.blogspot.com) is a how-to blog geared toward teaching non-technical people how to create, use and manage social media. The blog is written by Erin Erickson, Chicago Chapter Vice President and former print editor who taught herself HTML and social media to in order to work in online media. She is a Senior Web Editor at Putman Media.

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The Parable of the Perfect Employee

Photo: Steven RollBy Steven Roll
ASBPE President

The summer after I graduated from college I worked as a telemarketer before starting graduate school in September. Every Monday my boss held a meeting in which he would offer sales tips for the week ahead. While the message was always the same, he used a variety of techniques to make his point.

My favorite was the "perfect employee" scenario. One day he was going to hire someone who embodied all of the sales tips and strategies that we discussed at the Monday meetings. "This guy is going to ask for multiple orders on every phone call," my boss would say. "He's going to make additional sales from the referrals he gets from his customers."

This perfect employee was going to do so many great things that, eventually, all of the other telemarketers there would no longer be needed. My boss said he would take all of the money he saved and hire a limousine to drive the perfect employee to and from work each day.

Thankfully, I made it through September without the perfect employee showing up.

But lately I've been wondering what would happen if this person showed up at my current job.

The perfect employee I imagine is younger than me and more familiar with new technologies such as social networking Web sites.

Although I've been at my company for 10 years and hold a senior editor's position, the perfect employee uses her connections on LinkedIn to get a job at my pay grade.

When our managing editor assigns each of us a story, I draw upon my experience to write a thorough overview of the issue and include insights from some of the top people in the field. Like always, I call them on the phone and write down what they say.

Despite her inexperience, the perfect employee also manages to write a thoughtful analysis piece with the help of some experts in the field she finds on Twitter and interviews via video conference on Meebo. With their permission, she makes a digital recording of their conversation.

After we submit our stories, my boss says she wants to highlight the one that is likely to generate the most traffic on our Web site. My story is better written, my boss says. But she notes that the perfect employee is an active participant in social bookmarking. Despite the lesser quality of her work, her scores of friends on sites like StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, and Delicious will drive Internet traffic and make her piece the most popular item on our Web site.

While I'm working on the next story that my boss assigned, the perfect employee follows up her article with a podcast of the interview she recorded for her piece. She also produces and moderates a Webcast on the topic that generates additional revenue. For good measure, she puts together a slide show from the industry community she organized on Flickr.

I'm totally surprised by this. For years, I've maintained that I don't have time to do anything but write--and my boss has accepted this.

Eventually, my boss realizes that she doesn't need me anymore.

The perfect employee waves to me from the back seat of the limo on the way to work.

B2B Communication at Medill

By Abe Peck

Last year, I bit when John Lavine, dean at Medill / Northwestern, asked me to head an initiative to strengthen B2B at the School. After all, the first magazine to which I’d consulted, an in-house magazine for Kodak, was all about business information. I’d worked with Advanstar, Crain’s, Global Sources, Nielsen, Putman, Reed and Vance on B2B projects. And this organization had honored me with its most recent Lifetime Achievement Award. It seemed a great way to stay involved with Medill now that I was heading west as a professor emeritus.

But, of course, this opportunity was about more than vocational therapy for me. John had identified a real opportunity that we had a shot at doing well. Even with the stresses B2B niches face today, the parlous general economy and specific media economics, and the at-times overwhelming whirlwind of technologies involved in how we hunt and gather information, B2B offers many teachable moments and programmatic opportunities. Medill’s unique combination of journalism, integrated marketing communications (IMC) and media management resonates with the entire B2B spectrum, from magazines to corporate web sites. And Medill 2020, our curricular initiative, stresses both cross-platform work and deep understanding of audiences – exactly the targeted niches of B2B.

We had a foundation to build on. Several B2B prototypes in the Magazine Publishing Project had been published commercially. Students in that sequence already write, blog and shoot live assignments for B2B titles. IMC students work on strategic communications campaigns. Undergrad journalism and graduate IMC grad students serve in residencies at venues from American Salon to Editor & Publisher to the B2B information sites of major corporations. And students vie for existing scholarships and awards that commemorate B2B leaders – Crain, Friedman, Gordon, Horton, Pellegrin.

The Media Management Center – half Medill, half Kellogg school of Management – has partnered with American Business Media (ABM) on fast-track executive seminars and Kellogg students have studied possible inflection points when print might best go web. Finally, top managers and editors – from Pat McGovern to Aric Press – continue to serve as McAllister Fellows, raising consciousness about excellence in B2B.

Not bad. But plenty more could be done to enhance Medill’s contribution to the B2B environment.
  • We drafted a brochure to outline our strengths and the activities we’d take on during this academic year.

  • We constituted a team of point persons on our various campuses – Evanston and Chicago, but also DC and Qatar. They currently are coming up with “big ideas” for us to consider. We also empowered a specific digital point person, to ensure that we cover portals, podcasts and social networks.

  • Forty faculty and staff attended my Jan. 15, 2009, presentation on the B2B landscape. Given how busy people are, that was especially gratifying.

  • A B2B Intranet will house presentations and best industry practices from trade shows to mobile media, as well as lists of potential guest speakers, human resource staff. Externally, the www.medill.northwestern.edu site will promote our initiative.
To be listed, just contact me at a-peck@northwestern.edu and tell me what you’re best at. Additionally, Feb. 12 and 13 will be Medill B2B Days. Faculty in Evanston, Chicago and Washington will bring practitioners into their classes to expand their definitions of news, information, search and cross-media excellence. I’ll be moderating a Crain lecture panel on the Evanston campus that will discuss B2B trends with Peggy Walker (president, Vance and incoming ABM chair), Gary Slack (CEO, Slack Barshinger), award-winning editor Dan Verdon (DVM Newsmagazine) and Ellis Booker of Crain’s BtoB and BtoB Media. Check www.medill.northwestern.edu for details about this free event.

And on April 8th, the annual Medill Career Fair will included B2B companies offering jobs and internships. If you have openings for tomorrow’s leaders, contact Medill Career Services Director Jim O’Brien at j-obrien@northwestern.edu.

Going forward, we will assess and act on the best of our ideas. Medill merges both practice and research, and we hope to create new knowledge on engagement, peer-to-peer media and other important issues that can empower B2B going forward. The Media Management Center is exploring B2B programs in the Middle East and at other international venues. In terms of old-school media, a book on an aspect of media power (no jinxing it with preliminary disclosure) would include B2B. And we’ll get after more scholarship support for our best students.

I’m the catalyst for this effort through September, and perhaps beyond that. Please let me know how we can work together for better B2B, at a-peck@northwestern.edu.

Abe Peck became director of business to business communication at Medill / Northwestern after 27 years as a professor there. He consults to Advanstar and other B2B media in the U.S., U.K., Hong Kong, China and India, and received the ASBPE Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

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A Challenge to Art Directors

By Paul Heney

I’m not a creative type, but sometimes I wish that I was. I love that “Aha!” moment when my art director first lays out his or her ideas for a cover concept or a feature article treatment. I’m usually blown away by their creativity and how they bring elements together in ways that I never would have imagined. My former art director, who’s still in the business, and has been for more than 40(!) years, still comes up with great ideas that are fresher than many junior graphic artists.

In b2b, we have underappreciated journalists, for sure. But I think we have a lot of underappreciated and under-recognized art directors and graphic designers, too. That’s one of the reasons that we started the TABPI Design Challenge last year. It was a lot of fun, and there were many different concepts submitted. You can see the winners and honorable mentions from last year’s Design Challenge at www.tabpi.org/designchallenge.htm. There’s also an learning aspect to the Challenge, too ... you can see what the judges did and didn’t like so much. Would you have done things differently? How so?

Well, now you can show us. We’ve just announced our second Design Challenge, and there’s no cost to enter ... except the time invested in developing your solution. And just as last year, there is a $250 prize for the winner, which will feed your Starbucks habit for quite some time!

Once again, the Challenge involves the fictional “Concrete Times” magazine. This time, the editor-in-chief has asked you to design a show issue without using a city shot or a convention shot. Full details are at www.tabpi.org. The deadline for submitting Design Challenge solutions is February 13th, 2009. I look forward to seeing your submissions, along with that “Aha!” moment.

Paul J. Heney is editorial director for Questex Media's Hotel Group, which includes Hotel & Motel Management, Hotel Design, and Luxury Hotelier. A member of the ASBPE Cleveland Chapter board, Heney served as national president of ASPBE from 1999-2003. He is also president of TABPI, an international b2b think tank that promotes b2b journalism and professionalism.

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Why You Can't Afford to Not Learn Social Media

Photo: Erin Ericksonby Erin Erickson, Chicago Chapter Vice President;
Creator of Me Media: Social Media for Non-Techies

This post is adapted from Me Media: Social Media for Non-Techies

Why you can't afford to not learn social media

File this one under "No Brainer," but the Society for New Communications Research Symposium recently revealed that millenial journalists are leading the way when it comes to new media usage.

None of what they reported comes as a giant shock to me. Call me biased, but I'm a fervent social media user and I'm in my early 30s (technically on the cusp of being a millenial).

According to the findings, of which a full report will be available in Spring 2009:
  • 87% of 18-29 year-olds believe bloggers have become important opinion-shapers, versus 60% of 50-64 year-olds

  • 87% of 18-29 year-olds confirm that new media and communications enhances the relationship with their audience, versus 42% of 50- to 64-year-olds

  • 48% of all respondents use LinkedIn, and 45% use Facebook, to assist in reporting

  • 68% of all respondents use blogs to keep up on issues or topics of interest

  • 86% of all respondents use company websites, 71% use Wikipedia, and 46% use blogs to research an individual organization
What this data tells me is that those people unwilling to learn social media are going to be out of a job in the near future.

With the current state of the economy, companies are trading in their 20-year I-know-how-to-use-a-computer veterans for two I-have-been-out-college-10-months-but-ran-a-social-media-community-out-of-my-dorm-room "kids."

To put it mildly: these social media-minded millenials are going to start to replace you unless you do something about it.

The Time-Space Continuum

"I don't have the time," "I don't know how," and "My company won't let us do anything with it" are the excuses I hear the most often when I ask people why they haven't started to learn social media.

Then learn it for yourself. In this economy, there is a likelihood that you could be out of a job. Many of the companies that are hiring are looking for candidates with social media experience.

The next time you receive a request to join Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook, don't roll your eyes and delete. Accept the invitation, set up an account and start training yourself for your next potential job.

Me Media: Social Media for Non-Techies (emediaconsulting.blogspot.com) is a how-to blog geared toward teaching nontechnical people how to create, use and manage social media. The blog is written by Erin Erickson, Chicago Chapter Vice President and former print editor who taught herself HTML and social media to in order to work in online media. She is a Senior Web Editor at Putman Media.

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