Future of Business Media Conference – notes from the morning

The following are rough notes from the early session at today Future of Small Business Conference. For better “coverage” of the event, I recommend my friends PaidContent.org who are legit reporters.

Rafat Ali introducing the day: “A lot has changed since last October 30. The venue is smaller.” (Last year was in the much larger and more ornate (although the Edison Ballroom is ornate in its own way) Waldorf Astoria.

Lauren Rich Fine (providing overview): Business Media is an industry that can keep giving birth to new forms of media and new magazines, conferences. The media is paid for by a company — not the individual. The Internet has added a “consumer” and openness to business media. Bloomberg is the only “closed” system left in business media.

First session:

Robert Thompson, editor-in-chief, Dow Jones & Co. and managing editor of the Wall Street Journal: Some news media people are arguing over applications that have been over ten years ago. This month, there will be 30 million unique visitors at WSJ.com. A large portion of the Wall Street Journal is free. The “specialized content” is paid. There’s a lot of free stuff you can e-mail.

On the concept of community:

More of what you click on will be free. At the “vertical end” of our business, there is a subscription model. Everything you present to people is in the relevance of search. “‘Japanese banking’ is a term that responds a wide variety of content that ranges from free to paid.”

Are you concerned that the economic downturn will mean subscription cancelations? “I know that advertising predictions are pessimistic, but our advertising online is growing at double digit rates. High end business news, there is still a lot of demand. Both quantitative and qualitative.

On competiting with the NY Times:

We’re twice the size of the New York Times. Outside the New York area, we’re not as competitive. People who get the impression that we are moving away from business news “aren’t subscribers.” (Staci challenges this premise.) We’ve reorganized (the paper). The vast number of business readers find it easier to navigate.

Why did you need to be managing editor (instead of publisher) to be the agent of change:

The problems with Dow Jones was not with the journalists. It was with how the “assets” were being used. What better organization was in existence to take advantage of globalization?

Are we headed to a digital only world?

We aren’t.

What have you learned in the past six months?

The willingness of journalists to do things in a new way — to organize their operations and processes in a new way — “a common content purpose.” Also, the expansion of DJ’s operation in India — not just for coverage intended for North America, but coverage intended for audiences in Japan and China.

Haven’t the two assumptions you made going into the deal changed (that the content should be free and that you could “beat” the New York Times)

(Sorry, I didn’t quite follow the answer. It was something about growing in markets outside of New York and the research they did into “free.”)

How much have you invested in the

Increased the number of pages. Expanded the website.

How does the opinion, editorial pages of the paper (and website) drive readership and traffic?

Charging for “commentary” is hard to do. There’s not such a distinction in commentary as there is in other forms of journalism. Readers distinguish the value of business news stories. Commentary, no matter how funny or brilliant, doesn’t have the same value.

The role of volatility — what will that mean?

The financial crisis will speed up trends — i.e., classified advertising. People globally are more interested in the value of the dollar, American economy. That has benefitted DJ around the world.

Internalization of Business Media Companies

Graham Earnshaw (president Xinhua Finance Media — China business media company)

Devid Levin (ceo, United Business Media (vertical business “communities” – regional or geographic and business vertical)

William Pollak (ceo, North America, Incisive Media — UK based b2b “professional services” media company. Pollak is with American Lawyer Media, a company Incisive Media acquired during the past year)

Moderated by Chris Ahearn, president, Reuters Media at Thomson Reuters)

David Levin, CEO of the global business media company, United Business Media:

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