The Impact of LinkedIn Buying Bizo
If B2B publishing was a different industry, the prospect of LinkedIn buying Bizo would invite anti-trust scrutiny. Just think about what might happen in the world of consumer advertising if Facebook was buying AdSense. The regulators would be all over it. But with the possible exception of those of us in the business, we are looked at as a subset of the larger publishing and advertising business -- assuming anybody pays attention to us at all. Since the initial announcement of this sale I've barely read one word about it.
Bizo has grown up during its six years of existence by taking advantage of this B2B No Man's Land. The aggregators of big data -- I mean true big data, a term which has been overused into near meaninglessness -- concentrate on consumer data. The biggest advertisers want to know your income, what car you drive, how many kids you have, what your house is worth. But what industry you work in? They don't care.
Before we called it big data, Bizo cut deals to get exclusives on B2B data from the largest cloud aggregators. It's not like there were others lined up to buy. In 2010 I discussed the value of tracking data on B2B web users with eXalate, at the time possibly the largest data exchange not named Google. They said B2B data held no interest for them. Bizo also paid online business publishers for the right to track all of their readers. So in addition to what the cloud data companies collected, Bizo added the more granular data B2B publishers generated. That is a simplistic explanation of how they assembled what is sold as Bizographics.
Full disclosure: I have been a Bizo partner and fan for years. They do a great job and help B2B publishers make extra money. I am also a LinkedIn mega-user. In fact I own a group called B2B Publishers I invite you to join.
Speaking with the Bizo sales director early on, I complimented him on building the largest B2B advertising-based data play on the planet. Smart to wrap this up into one powerful ad-placement entity. "You'll corner the market," says I. "Yeah, until the 800-pound gorilla decides to compete with us," says he. He pointed out nobody has as much B2B data as LinkedIn. And best of all, it is a self-correcting database as users update what company they work for in great detail.
Now instead of Bizo calling LinkedIn a feared competitor, they can call them Daddy. I'm happy for my friends at Bizo, as I am for any hard-working entrepreneurs who cash in big. In this case for a reported $175 million. Yet I cannot help but worry how this will affect the B2B publishing and advertising industry in the long run. Surely it will contribute to the erosion of B2B publishing brands.
Making Publications an Afterthought
Recently there was a lot of scuttlebutt about the sale of Forbes and why it had trouble being sold for a high valuation. Most of the articles I read took shots at Forbes for their native advertising strategy, some saying it caused the difficulty the company had in selling. Forbes is not what I'd call a business-to-business magazine anyway. It is a general business magazine with a readership of wealthy individuals, many of whom happen to be businesspeople. Their rate kit defines their online advertising competitors as WSJ.com, CNN Money.com, and Business Week.com. That is yesterday's thinking.
Bizo reduces the need to advertise with any general business website. They can target ads to business readers with precision no matter what publication is being read. Bizo ads are reader-centric, not publication-centric. Forbes sells the ability to reach 807,048 senior managers on their website. Bizo sells the ability to reach 90% of all senior managers in America, among "120 million business professionals around the globe." What's more, they will target your ads based on job function, industry, and company size. This deflates the value of business magazines more than anything else.
Just think about merging the LinkedIn database with that. LinkedIn already has gone into the content-producing game, allowing advertisers to reach targeted readers on their site. Adding Bizo essentially removes those borders. Together they can reach virtually all business buyers everywhere, with specificity.
Should you be worried if you have publications serving business markets like healthcare, energy, IT, transportation and, well, just about anything else? If you're not, I've done a bad job of communicating. At the least you better get your own data act together. With all due respect to my friends at Bizo, it is probably time to consider whether selling them your data makes sense. Instead, shouldn't you wring every last drop of value from it yourself? If you are not fully vested in collecting and using audience data in an integrated way, time is not your friend.
The good news is, by their actions, Bizo and LinkedIn are classic frenemies. They help B2B publishers in many ways. However after this merger, I cannot think of anyone other than Google who can go head-to-head with them. I'd sure not like to stand in their way.
Andy Kowl is a journalist and entrepreneurial publisher with more than 30 years developing, marketing and growing publishing companies. He is senior vice president of publishing strategy for ePublishing Inc., the leading enterprise publishing system (EPS) provider which manages content, audience data, workflow, newsletters and e-commerce for hundreds B2B online publications. He helps publishers increase reader engagement and response by integrating behavioral data with contextual content, and shows them direct ways to monetize the results. Andy writes the B2B Beat blog for Publishing Executive magazine. His background in B2B includes publishing, editing and/or owning magazines and information products covering specialty retail, horse breeding, real estate, credit unions, Wall Street compliance and wireless technology.