"We're probably looking at a first quarter that's flat to slightly up," conceded Gordon Hughes, president & CEO of ABM, adding, "For 2004, we are projecting 2% to 4% revenue growth, with most of the growth taking place in the second half of the year."
ABM last year predicted that 2003 would also end on an upbeat note, but the year finished with a 3.2 percent drop in ad pages and a marginal increase in revenue. That followed steep declines in 2002, making some observers wonder when the B-to-B marketplace would finally hit bottom and bounce up again.
That could be an important indicator not just for B-to-B, but for the entire advertising marketplace, because some experts believe business ad spending is an important indicator for overall advertising demand, though there is some debate whether it is a lagging, or a leading indicator. Given the fact that most of the major consumer media, with the exception of consumer magazines, have experienced some form of recovery, the pattern would suggest B-to-B is lagging the consumer marketplace.
Or it could be that the protracted recession in both consumer and business magazines reflects a fundamental shift in demand away from the print medium.