November 11, 2015 Last Updated 2:51 pm

US trade publishing association undergoes name change to Connectiv, refocusing of mission

The name ‘Connectiv’ comes from a recognition that the connected global economy has fundamentally changed how business information companies and their customers operate, the association says

It is incredibly hard not to be cynical, and downright pessimistic about the B2B magazine industry in the US. When I think of some of the big names in publishing that existed when I first broke into the business – McGraw-Hill, Bill Communications, Nielsen, VNU, Primedia, Cahners Business Information, Johnson-Hill… some of these overlap, of course – you can see what I mean.

It is not just that many are gone, but how they disappeared that is often depressing. Some went away through be acquired (often by private equity companies). or left the business because they saw no future in it (McGraw-Hill, for instance).

No industry can have a strong trade association where the industry itself is not strong and interested in its own future. In 1991, when I joined McGraw-Hill, the future looked very bright, indeed. In fact, through that decade, the industry was so strong and profitable that private equity companies swooped in to start implementing roll-up strategies. Acquire, acquire, acquire, sell, sell, sell. The window was about five years, and building the business, at a time when the Internet was becoming a thing was not of interest.

The industry peaked in the late nineties into 2000. But there were warnings signs everywhere.

“Traditional business models are becoming obsolete. Business leaders must fully understand and embrace the new B2B realities or face severe consequences in the future.” That was said by a representative of PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2000. Things were certainly changing, companies like VerticalNet and MediaBrains were finally getting the attention of the industry. But the stock market bubble burst in 2000 and suddenly all those new companies proclaiming that the Internet would be where B2B dollars would go in the future looked like shysters. Many were, but the Internet wasn’t a fad (something I was told flat out when I joined a Chicago area B2B publisher in 1995).

It is hard to blame a trade association for struggling when the industry’s leading members no longer look out beyond a couple years (to when they are likely sold to another company or PE). These professionals don’t like to waste much time attending committee meetings or trying to attract new members.

But through the years there have been those who did speak up about the state of the industry. I cannot tell you how many conferences I attended that featured Joe Pulizzi talking about content marketing. ABM members would turn to each other and ask if they were at the right conference. The CMA appears to be doing just fine today, the ABM is changing its name… again.

The association representing US trade magazine publishers will now be called Connectiv. The association has wisely added “the Business Information Association” to the end of its name so people don’t confuse it with an ISP.

I like some of the things said below in the announcement for the name change.

“We went through a comprehensive process with our members to understand where they see opportunity and need help on the challenges they face,” Doug Manoni, CEO of SourceMedia and Chair of the Board of Directors of the association said. “Out of this, we recognized the need to increase industry collaboration and better prepare companies for what’s next.”

That is a good approach, and quite a bit different than what I encountered when I last interviewed the director of ABM last in 2011.

At a Chicago event I asked a series of questions about where the association was going, its mission, and came away less than sure things were headed in the right direction.

“Nobody in B2B needs to be educated about what digital is, and what the theoretical possibilities are, and the compelling need to reach their audience in different ways. Every single person gets that and understands that,” the then chief executive of the ABM told me in 2011.

But he also said that advertisers were “skittish” about digital, and less likely to spend their marketing dollars there. So B2B publishers were right to move slowly.

“B2B does tend to move a little slower because the audience tends to move a little slower. So there is an opportunity for more reflection and more understanding of it and trying to learn from other industry and getting it right.”

When we were done talking I said I didn’t see things that way. That from my perspective, things were continuing to move quickly, and in a direction very much opposite to where the association seemed to be heading. But that interview had to be cut short – Joe Pulizzi was ready to start his panel with marketing people from various brands including Adobe, promoting the idea that brands can be their own publishers and had little need for the trade publishers who sat in the audience listening to the presentation.

But that was then, and this is now as they say. The ABM has since taken over by the Software & Information Industry Association in April 2013, Mike Marchesano came in as Managing Director a month later, then earlier this year the ABM was merged with the Content and Information Services Division. Now the name of this division is being changed from ABM/CISD to Connectiv.

With this change maybe the association can reinvent itself, and a new idea of what the association can do to help B2B publishers can emerge.

At its next major event in January, for instance, the keynote is How Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google are Changing the Content Business, the kind of session that I think could bring real value to members. (Will the speaker or speakers come from one of these companies, or will the keynote presenter be a member?)

Here is the announcement for the change in name to Connectiv:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 11, 2015 –– ABM/CISD – formed after the merger between ABM and the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) – today announced a relaunch, unveiling a new name, Connectiv, the Business Information Association, and a refocus of its mission. The changes were announced today during SIIA’s Business Information & Media Summit in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

logo_connectivFor over a century ABM has been the leading organization serving business media and information companies. Since joining with SIIA’s Content and Information Services Division (CISD), ABM has been in the process of reinvigorating its core mission based on the evolving industry landscape and its members’ needs. The rebranding process identified a clear understanding of how information companies are being challenged by rapidly changing technologies, the significant impact of Millennials on the workforce, and the need for greater industry collaboration to advance innovation.

The name “Connectiv” comes from a recognition that the connected global economy has fundamentally changed how business information companies and their customers operate – including how they make money, how their employees work and learn, and how information and data are utilized by today’s businesses. It also represents a new emphasis in the association’s mission – to serve as an active and connected community for the industry to share, partner, learn, network and collaborate.

“More than just a new name, this relaunch represents a more forward-looking approach that will be highly responsive to changing technologies and business trends,” said Mike Marchesano, Managing Director of Connectiv. “Our evolved mission is centered around helping companies innovate and embrace the opportunities presented by rapid change, while doing so in ways that appeal to young leaders. And, as our new name suggests, we will launch new activities and programs that allow Connectiv to serve as a vibrant and connecting force in the industry.”

Doug Manoni, Chair of the Connectiv Board of Directors said, “We went through a comprehensive process with our members to understand where they see opportunity and need help on the challenges they face. Out of this, we recognized the need to increase industry collaboration and better prepare companies for what’s next. Connectiv will launch new programs and services that offer practical, real-world support for accelerating innovation and engaging with new audiences.”

As part of the relaunch, Connectiv also announced today that it will begin a number of new programs centered on its mission:

Prepare member companies for the opportunities of tomorrow. Connectiv will help companies innovate and adapt in the face of changing technology and business models.

  • Innovation Index: An annual index that monitors the impact of innovation, with the goal of both charting the industry’s progress and showing companies how innovation can be successfully applied.
  • Best-Practices Roadshow: Throughout 2016, Connectiv will identify the most successful products and services, and bring companies together in cities around the country to see what’s working, identify emerging opportunities and share best practices.

Deliver programs and services geared towards a younger generation of leaders. Connectiv will prepare the next generation of leaders, and deliver content and services in ways that appeal to how they learn and work.

  • Emerging Leaders Collective: Connectiv will launch a dedicated community that is both for Millennials and led by Millennials. The Collective will share ideas and information online and offline – with in-person events and informal gatherings.
  • Connectiv University: Learning is increasingly happening outside of classrooms and conferences, especially for Millennials. Through this online resource, Connectiv will provide interactive, 24/7 learning opportunities that offer timeliness and depth.

Serve as an industry-wide resource for sharing and collaborating. Building a stronger network that supports business information companies will be central to everything Connectiv does.

  • Daily News Feed: As part of this, the organization will work to accelerate collaboration and innovation through a revamped member news delivery system and a new committee structure.

These steps are just the beginning, and throughout 2016 Connectiv will announce more details and new programs and services for its members.

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