The Global Business Media Forum, a two-day event organised by The Cross Border Media Inc and held at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, saw interesting debates and discussions on the current media scenario. Under discussion were topics such as advertising attracted by business media, and the challenges faced by B2B (business to business) publishers in India in approaching advertisers and planners.
The day began with a keynote address by Vikram Sakhuja, chief executive officer, GroupM. He began by saying that in a highly cluttered and fragmented media scenario, media owners have to work towards offering advertisers a proposition-product, which was distinct and could not be replicated easily. For any communication to succeed, the medium must ensure two-way communication - tracking the influence and impact the brand communication had on its TG.
Sakhuja's insightful comments gave way to a presentation on the benefits of publishers going international, by Rolf Grisebach, advisor to the Board Deutscher Fachverlag GmbH - the European company that publishes 90 trade magazines with a staff of 865 people. It has publishing co-operations in China, Turkey and other countries. According to Grisebach, motivation for expanding one's brand beyond borders could be guided by reasons such as source of additional growth, favourable demographics and higher GDP growth in other economies.
He, however, pointed out that the benefits accrued on going international differed from segment to segment. For instance, subjects such as science and technology and fashion could be easily replicated across countries and cultures; while more localised and area-specific subjects, such as food, would call for customisation. He underlined that factors affecting publishers' decision to enter foreign lands included the legal framework, cultural barriers and transparency in the government of a particular country.
The day-long meet was also witness to the refreshing tale of a successful B2B company, afaqs! (an advertising, marketing and media portal), which was shared by the company's co-founder and director, Sreekant Khandekar.
He started by highlighting the fact that the majority of B2B companies are first-generation enterprises, having started as print publications and later going online. But afaqs!, unlike other B2B publications, began its journey online. It got into print later, by launching a fortnightly, Brand Reporter!, now re-christened as afaqs! Reporter.
In 1999, the year afaqs! was launched, it was a tough task to get advertisers, as media companies themselves were too small, and media planners were reluctant to put their bet on a medium that hardly existed in the country. According to Khandekar, the rise and popularity of the internet has contributed to and coincided with the growth of the company. He shared that at present, two-thirds of the company's revenue comes from online sales. Over the past few years, there has been an increase in the revenue contributed by non-media clients on afaqs!. Categories such as telecom, automobile and others contribute nearly 20 percent to the organization's revenue.
Another speaker, Anurag Batra, chief executive officer and editor-in-chief, Exchange4Media Group emphasized that the future of print was safe and secure, as the youth are still devoted to reading. And even in the case of B2B publishing, the media was all about the brand and the content, while the platform on which it was presented was secondary. All that today's young consumers ask for is quick and instant delivery of content on portable devices, he stated.
Another encouraging success story of a B2B organization was that of India Infrastructure Publishing, headed by publisher, Alok Brara. This entity covers niche sectors, such as power and telecom.
According to Brara, the core of his business is undoubtedly his magazines, which serve to build the brand equity of his company. Over time, the company has ventured into events, seminars, research reports and analysis, all of which significantly contribute to the company's revenue. He asserted that seminars and events also turn out to be a good source of getting original, well-researched and free of cost quality content for the magazines.
The two case studies of how to run a profitable B2B entity were followed by a detailed discussion on the use and measurement of digital media for advertising. One of the speakers, Megan Clarken, managing director, Asia Pacific, Nielsen Online pointed out that the medium was not getting adequate attention from media planners, in proportion to the interest and devotion expressed by consumers. Currently, there is no correlation between the time spent by consumers on the internet and spends by brands on the medium.
Ambika Srivastava, chairperson, ZenithOptimedia took the debate further, saying that the real question concerning digital media relates to figuring out the value that this new media is contributing to a brand's cause. She went on to conclude that like other media, digital too should be assessed by analysing its influence over consumer behaviour during different stages of making a buying decision, and the impact of the brand communication as a tool of advocacy for the brand.
The last session of the day brought out interesting insights about the telecom business. Lloyd Mathias, president and chief managing officer, Tata Teleservices enlightened the gathering with some interesting figures and trends in the telecom industry.
He shared that the telecom sector in India is acquisition led, with 550 million mobile users. But this figure is exaggerated and based on the fact that individuals here own multiple SIMs, as the cost of acquiring them is negligible. "The unique number of mobile users stands at 350 million. We only have 127 million internet enabled mobile users. With the growth of internet, there is a huge opportunity for operators to look beyond voice and text," he said.
Another speaker, Yuko Tanaka, director, international sales, marketing and communications, Nikkie BP shared that for the Japanese, the mobile phone was more than a communication device alone. It was a personalized lifestyle gadget, which contributed to the fact that every three months, the Japanese market witnesses the launch of as many as 20-25 models by the three leading players in the country.
The first day of the media forum came to an end with the promise of equally enriching debates on the second day of the conference, February 26.