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Resiliency, Progress, and Optimism at the Connectiv Executive Summit



Folio – CHICAGO — Cautious optimism — coupled with the recognition that the traditional ways of doing business are no longer as tried-and-true as they once were — could well be the theme of any media industry conference in 2017, but the sentiment was unabashedly on display at this year’s Connectiv Executive Summit, a two-day gathering of top-level brass from B2B publishers and information firms across the country held this week in Chicago’s River North district.

Matt Kinsman, Connectiv’s VP of content and programming, laid things out succinctly when presenting the association’s B2B Operating Cost report, a survey of 20-some B2B media execs to be released in June. Forty-eight percent of survey respondents reported that their overall company revenue was higher in 2016 than the year prior, while 52 percent said it was lower. Asked about 2017, however, a whopping 91 percent of respondents predict that gross revenue will be up compared to 2016.

That may seem like wishful thinking, especially with print ad revenue down across the board (the agriculture sector notwithstanding). But if the rest of the day’s programming is any indication, growth areas in the B2B space are plentiful if not familiar.

The New York Times’ VP of licensing and syndication, Alice Ting, kicked off Thursday’s proceedings with a detailed look at how her company is breaking into new markets and deriving new value from existing assets by licensing out the Times’ content in markets as far-flung as Brazil, and Qatar. And content licensing isn’t an opportunity reserved just for globally-recognized newspapers with dozens of Pulitzer Prizes. By identifying your assets, especially those not replicated by others, Ting said, publishers large and small can verify the extent to which content licensing could drive not only direct revenue, but subscriptions, events, brand recognition, and more.

Similarly, MediaRadar’s Todd Krizelman delivered a presentation Wednesday evening extolling the seemingly limitless potential of native advertising, for which both supply and demand are skyrocketing. To illustrate the point, Krizelman reported that there are 616 new advertisers purchasing native placements in the U.S. every month. 

If native isn’t your thing, consider that 65 percent of B2B marketers are now buying programmatic placements, as reported by Scott Roulet, the newly-hired programmatic guru at BPA Worldwide, which, coincidentally, just launched a private B2B ad exchange.

Indeed, times are changing, and at no point was that idea more manifest than during the third annual Gertrude Crain Award luncheon, honoring the contributions of female executives in the B2B media and information space. Last year’s honoree, e.Republic president Cathilea Robinett, took to the stage to announce the 2017 winner, but not before inducting six new female execs into Connectiv’s Circle of Excellence: 1105 Media’s Anne Armstrong, PennWell’s Jayne Gilsinger, Bloomberg Media’s Christine Morgan, Northstar Travel Group’s Roberta Muller, UBM’s Joy Puzzo, and McGraw-Hill’s Betsy Whalen.

When the applause subsided, it was time for the announcement of the day: Debra Walton, global managing director of customer propositions at Thomson Reuters, is the 2017 Gertrude Crain Award winner. The well-travelled Walton, who was unable to attend the event on account of a family safari vacation in Botswana, delivered an acceptance speech via video recording.

“I have had the opportunity to read about Gertrude Crain over the past few weeks, and I am truly inspired by what she accomplished,” said Walton, before adding that she hoped her own story would inspire the next generation of female business leaders. “Too often, we lack confidence in our own abilities. Hand-in-hand with that goes courage.”

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