B2B Media's Moment: It's Diversified, Resilient And Hot

If you follow IndustryDive CEO Sean Griffey’s Twitter account, you know he’s a big believer in B2B media. A consistent theme is an intense focus on vertical markets, bootstrapping your way to growth, no cutting corners to reach scale, and an emphasis on brand development.

“I'm a boot-strapped, EBITDA focused media executive, he said in one recent tweet. “I've never bought into the raise $100 million in VC dollars and build a media company model.”

It's a great time to start a digital media brand,” he retweeted in another. “Pick a valuable niche. Create the best content in that niche. Go vertical: build products and services. While the big players are consolidating, cutting costs and going for scale, niche is where the opportunity lies.”



Griffey, whose company serves 22 vertical markets and has about 100 employees, represents the best of today’s B2B media. And that’s saying something, because suddenly, B2B media is hot.

Unlike mass consumer media, and even some niche consumer enthusiast media markets, B2B is resilient. To oversimplify, as long as commerce exists — as long as buyers need sellers and vice versa — then B2B media is the essential conduit.

Even in the COVID pandemic era, when live events have been decimated in many industries, B2B media has long since diversified enough to withstand the loss of that channel. Instead, B2B media and data companies pivoted to virtual events, and captured marketing dollars diverted from events into advertising and other initiatives. When brand advertising proved too ephemeral and chancy to this generation of CMOs, B2B developed data-intelligence services that far exceeded the capabilities of consumer-oriented publishers.

So yes, attention is shifting to B2B. 

Two examples: The Association of National Advertisers’ ANA Business Marketing unit conducted its first annual B2B day earlier this month. The virtual conference focused on the contributions of remarkable B2B enterprises and their marketers — and offered a look ahead at innovations to come in 2022 and beyond.

Also, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity introduced a B2B Lions award for its upcoming 2022 festival, to take place in Cannes, France, next June. “Having seen a rise in B2B work winning across the Lions, and with many in the industry believing that a specialist Lion in this area will raise the creative bar and elevate the discipline, we think now is B2B’s moment to have its own spotlight on the global creative stage,” Lions Chairman Philip Thomas said in a statement.

There are several trends underlying all this. First, B2B creative has measurably improved in the last decade or more. But from a purely business perspective, B2B:

  • Is more stable than consumer media. It has a built-in market that's not subject to whims and fads. 
  • Is less likely to be disrupted by outsiders. Business relationships and market knowledge built over decades matter.
  • Has done a much better job of diversifying — media players are already digital, so it's harder for a digital newcomer to come in.
  • Have reaped the benefits of the advances in data. Now it can offer marketers specific intelligence on who is ready to buy what product. In fact, it’s become fashionable for some B2B media companies to call themselves “data companies” or “tech companies" to emphasize that distinction.
  • Companies that were not dependent on events benefited enormously from the pandemic as event marketing budgets flowed to their digital businesses. This will be the best year on record for digital advertising and 2022 looks to be the same.
  • Marketing has become higher profile and more consumer-like and attention-getting. That’s been measurable in MediaPost's own Creative Media Awards in the business-media category. Indeed, high-profile campaigns from companies like Adobe, Salesforce and others look like the best consumer advertising and utilize big consumer media buys to target a B2B audience.

Even as the duopoly continues to dominate the data and advertising sectors, it’s worth taking a moment to celebrate the ongoing strength of B2B media.

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