Co-Chief Executive Officer —BNP Media
We asked Taggart Henderson, Co-CEO at BNP Media, what areas he is concentrating his creative leadership energy on for maximum results and revenue.
BNP Media is a successful company with 100 brands and 500 employees. As CEO, where are you spending your creative leadership energy to guide the company through the many opportunities and challenges of the industry today?
The data around audience behavior is getting more of my attention than ever before.
BNP Media has many diverse media brands in industries like construction, food & beverage production, and casino gaming, to name a few. Historically, each brand made its own decisions regarding sales, content, production and the technology tools used. We’ve invested a lot of time in the past few years creating consistency across our brand platforms; websites, email, registration forms, etc., and building out technology. This is now helping us to gain a better understanding of what our audiences are doing with our content and what they are doing elsewhere as well. I am spending quite a bit of my time with tech products that help media companies design and deliver interactive content, and analyze audience engagement. In fact, I’m in my car right now, on the way to the airport to fly to a tech event. I probably wouldn’t have attended an event like this a few years ago, but it makes more sense today.
There are so many “shiny things” out there now; new software and services that tell you they can solve all your problems. We’re taking the time to make sense of what will work for us.
Do you have a process for sorting through all the options?
We have no formal process, I wish we did. We talk to other B2B media companies to hear about the results of what they are doing. We do some testing, but sometimes we just learn by trial and error. And we’re learning how to fail fast when an idea does fail. The business is becoming so much more complex. Just look at the mix of new tech and service providers sponsoring MediaGrowth Summit last month. Conferences used to have sponsors who were printers, fulfillment companies and maybe a paper manufacturer. Our industry is in an interesting stage. It’s both exciting and mind-boggling. But we are getting better and better at understanding our audiences. And technology providers are getting better and better at helping us do it. Everyone is improving. It’s overwhelming, but still really exciting.
What advice would you give to other B2B media companies about the business today?
Some things about our industry will always remain the same. Identifying the right audience and engaging them with the right content. But how we do this will continue to change. Thirty years ago my dad came into the office with a copy of a USA Today newspaper. The concise articles of that paper represented a new way to engage readers at the time. He told our editors they needed to start thinking about writing shorter articles for shorter attention spans. People didn’t have time to read long articles. Now, it’s like USA Today on steroids. We figure content providers have about five seconds to get their audiences’ attention and hold their interest so they will spend time with the content. I was looking at a New York Times digital edition this morning. There was an article about the city of Detroit. It was one paragraph and a picture. I scrolled down and there was another paragraph and another picture. It was engaging, interesting, and I read it. But the format was completely new and very well-designed for the medium I was using.
Our industry got results with virtual trade shows for a period of time. Those are gone now. The first iteration of digital magazines – simply putting the print version online – doesn’t work anymore. But new digital products are working for us at BNP. We are working more like an ad agency to consult with the marketer and create customized, engaging content like our Interactive Product Spotlight. Users can click and scroll to move around in an interactive, graphically pleasing format.
We are not only designing for the medium that our audiences are using, we are also getting better at sending particular content to the portions of our audience that want it the most. B2B media companies should always be looking for the next way to identify the right audience and engage them with the right content.
What other promising areas do you see in B2B media?
Events are the fastest growing part of the media business and they have been very successful for us. I would like to have some type of event associated with each of our brands. That hasn’t happened yet, but we’re working in that direction. Small conference formats have been effective; 200 people for one or two days with educational tracks and possibly exhibits. Award luncheons can also be effective. We look for spaces that are not being served by current trade shows and have been very successful at launching trade shows in the right space. As “digital” as our industry has become, people still want to get together. And Google can’t replicate that.
Any other closing thoughts?
I’ve already said it, but B2B media companies have got to get good at Failing Fast. We can’t be too afraid to make mistakes. We must try new things and be aggressive. And talk to each other about what is working and not working for each other.
We must keep moving. We probably aren’t moving fast enough.
Thank you, Tagg!