Those savvy business-to-business media investors have only themselves to blame

[Note: I am friends with William Pollak and this post says I agree with him totally. Well, except for one thing.] [Later: See comment below. Perhaps I don’t agree with what Bill is saying as what I agree with are those things he’s relaying from others. I don’t actually know, from the post, what his opinion is.]

In a guest blog post this morning on The Media Briefing Experts’ Blog, veteran B2B media executive William Pollak says that investors are not happy with b-to-b media companies…and the “messages they are getting from us – the operators of these businesses – is not making them feel any better.”

What is that message? Here’s just an excerpt of what he’s hearing from “the investors.”:

“…What I find a little surprising is the more general negativity toward all advertising-supported businesses – print and digital. These savvy investors believe that the upheaval in the advertising business has only just begun, and will swamp traditional carriers of branded print or banner advertising. Some cited the enormous importance of Facebook and social media in general in the future allocation of ad dollars.

Others talked about more and more custom marketing by individual marketers who have the ability to cut out the middleman and go direct to their target market. And still others saw the rise of Big Data and analytics as driving more business toward highly targeted lead generation/scoring services, with the money to support that coming from ad budgets. Any way you slice it, traditional B2B media are made to look like the losers when those tidal waves hit.”

As I have spent the past two decades preaching what Bill is saying, with what he says here — and with his assessment that the horses have left the stable on many things that could have helped traditional business-to-business media companies transition to what is next — I clearly agree with Bill on these (and to be fair, there are some innovative companies that have, but in general, Bill is dead-on).

As my company for the past 20 years has been, and still is, in the business of cutting out “the middleman” and going direct to a marketer’s target, yes I agree with that too. Analytics, ditto. Data, that’s how we got started.  Lead generation, the same.

When it comes to pretty much everything Bill says, I’ve been among the few voices crying the wilderness for big part of the past 20 years. So, yes. I’m with you, man.

There’s just this one thing

Where I disagree with Bill is this: His use of the adjective savvy in front of the word investors — as if it were the business-to-business media companies who were the ones holding onto the past while these savvy investors were catching onto a new wave.

Wow. It takes some incredible bending of history to recast the perpetrators of all sorts of train wreck investments into “savvy.” (Note: I’m referring to the type of professional investors Bill is: the professional private equity type.) Unless, that is, you define savvy as who ever sells out before that last guy who can’t sell is left holding the bag.

De-constructing the unsavvy investments in business-to-business media over the past ten years by  savvy investors and demonstrating how it was they, not the people who were experts in business-to-business media who worked at the companies they purchased, who destroyed the geese that could have been laying golden eggs, would be a fairly easy assignment if I had the time, or really cared.

But I don’t.

I won’t, but I could easily, easily recount how several savvy investor buy-outs of extremely profitable b2b media companies and stellar brands were followed by the savvy investors installing into a key decision-making role some idiot who may have worked at the digital division of a TV network who was going to take that B2B company to Nirvana — but who instead led it down the path to Kurt Cobain.

These savvy investors installed some of biggest jack-asses you can imagine. Really. They were idiots who knew nothing about business to business media — or business, for that matter.

They fired people and merged companies and bought other companies for amounts that made some previous owners look very, very savvy. If they were lucky, they sold out to the next guy who was left holding the bag — thus, making themselves savvy.

And anyone with a brain who worked at these companies left because those savvy investors had put idiots in charge.

I’ll stop here. You know where I’m going. You know that I am in the part of the media world that is 100 percent marketing services and analytics and everything that is not traditional.

But if you wait until you hear something from savvy business to business media investors, I hate to inform you: They’re only savvy when it comes to playing musical chairs.