June 11, 2014

In B2B Media, History Repeats Itself

I recently read an article that Lewis Dvorkin, the chief product officer at Forbes, wrote for his site. The article, titled Journalists Need to Know How the Rise of the Mobile, Social, Visual Web ImpactsThem , curates a number of stats from Mary Meekers most recent Internet Trends Report to make a point: There is a glaring inequity between high rates of mobile consumption and the editorial focus on writing for mobile devices. It was well-written and I sent it to our editorial team to take to heart.

But the theme of the article relates to more than just editors and journalists. It brings to mind the well-known quote from George Santayana,

Those who cannot remember thepastare condemned to repeat it.

My 10th grade world history teacher, Doc Wilkerson, hammered the quote into my brain.Its a great lesson for society at large, but it also applies to B2B media.

When the digital transition began, you heard B2B print media execs say things like, I dont know how to monetize digital, and We will just make our existing processes and content work for online. Today, you hear the same, but about mobile. I dont know how to monetize mobile, and We will just make our existing content work for the phone, might not be strategies that execs are willing to shout from the treetops, but the proof is in the mobile experiences to which our highly valuable audience of business executives are subjected.

Go ahead and check out your favorite industry site on your phone and let me know how it compares to some of the best consumer mobile experiences. The fact is, B2B lags consumer badly and it takes years to build expertise in an area like mobile. There are still news releases from major B2B publishers that are touting their transition to digital. How long before they nail a completely new screen and understand mobile reader habits and wants?

The what weve got is good enough for now attitude that B2B media has taken wont play out well on mobile, just as it didnt play out well in digital. The excuses used to justify giving in to inertia are invalid because your readers dont give a damn. Their expectations are what matter, and they expect much more.

The old paradox of what happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object does not apply here. Because if the meteoric rise of mobile consumption is an unstoppable force, certainly history has show us that B2B media players are not immovable objects.