Every B2B Publication Needs 5 Fear Factors

By Howard Rauch

“Pre-emptive discouragement of a direct competitor should be a key focus.” This comment was the closing statement in an editorial planning report recently submitted by a top B2B editor to senior management. He added: “If I had to summarize our editorial focus, it is to raise the ‘editorial bar’ so high that it would be extremely difficult for a competitor to emerge.”

Take it from me . . . this guy is on the money! The existence of strong editorial “fear factors” is always a concern when I evaluate existing publications serving a given market. My quest: to find a situation where a start-up could easily vault my new magazine into a leadership position.

So how strong is your fear factor? Is your editorial leadership position sufficiently fortified to the point where potential competition is scared away? Here are five practices that would shake my resolve if I were thinking about invading your field, especially if all of them were in play.

1) High-profile editor in chief. This individual always is sought out for speaking assignments at conventions sponsored by key industry groups. In every issue, he or she writes an important feature that reflects insider status. Editorial columns always address important issues as opposed to habitually parroting the contents page. Several staff members are active participants in association affairs – to the point of being officers, directors or committee heads.

2) Constant stream of original research. You can count on this publication to maintain a strong statistical presence throughout the year.

3) Generous travel budget. The editorial staff seems to be everywhere. A new magazine with limited bucks to support field trips clearly wouldn’t stand a chance. This fear factor alone would be sufficiently imposing at a time when so many editorial travel outlays have been slashed.

4) Dynamite at-show issues. Several blockbuster features are in the lineup. Event previews are enterprising . . . not just the typical combination of exhibitor list, workshop blurbs and expanded product item write-ups.

5) Authoritative columnists. Regular contributions from recognized industry experts reflect a solid knowledge of the field in question. These authors always provide charts or useful checklists. Their value is easily established when matched against typical “shotgun” columns that lack tailoring and easily could appear in hundreds of magazines.

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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2 thoughts on “Every B2B Publication Needs 5 Fear Factors

  1. Howard, another though-provoking post. Yet before a publishing house gets too complacent, it has to acknowledge that a well-financed start-up organization can cause a lot of mischief by taking away share of market.A start-up can achieve 4 of the 5 right out of the blocks. If it can woo a high-profile editor (unlikely), then it achieves all 5.Jim

  2. Hi Jim:Thanks for your comment. It certainly is true that a well-financed new competitor could do immediate damage to an unwary, complacent organization.On the other hand, there are many new competitors who may not be willing to go the extra mile, especially when it comes to editorial investment.Meanwhile, some publishers already serving an existing market have yet to loosen up the financial belts they tightened several years ago. These are the folks who could lose their race to a newcomer by default, even if the extra opposition isn’t immediately four-star in the five editorial areas I itemized.In fact,a three-star invader might easily prevail over incumbents whose editorial effort has drifted down to a two-star rating or less.Meanwhile, that vital high profile editor-in-chief factor is starting to become elusive in some quarters. We need to work harder at beefing up the leadership potential throughout the editorial line of succession.Regards,Howard Rauch

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