MEDIA ROUNDUP: Broad coverage loses its value in eyes of tech firms- B-to-b tech magazines are no longer interested in stories of grandvision - David Ward discovers that tech journalists these days arefocused...

For a few brief years, b-to-b technology journalists found

themselves covering a seriously sexy category. Soaring company

valuations and a general Internet obsession turned 20-something

entrepreneurs into respected visionaries.

The hype in b-to-b technology may be over, but that doesn't mean the

sector isn't still one of the most dynamic and competitive segments


It's just that attitudes have changed, and that's been reflected in how

reporters cover both established and new companies. "The reporters are

now more interested in customers and ROI," says Katy Rogers, media

supervisor with San Francisco-based Blanc & Otus. "There's a lot less

emphasis on vision and stock price, and more on how companies are making


The Wall Street Journal remains the most influential publication

covering b-to-b technology, followed closely by The New York Times,

Business Week, and the Financial Times. "A lot of business tech

companies will have polices that say publications like the Times, the

FT, and the Journal are handled in-house because those relationships are

so important," says Virginia Cartwright, director of the global

technologies group at Manning Selvage & Lee (MS&L). "They need a

one-to-one ongoing correspondence with the reporters."

But in general, the reporters covering this beat are divided between the

traditional business press and a host of vertical trade publications

aimed at IT specialists. The leading b-to-b tech reporters are Matt

Marshall of the San Jose Mercury News, the San Francisco Chronicle's

Kelly Zito, The Wall Street Journal's Ted Bridis, Tom Weber, and Glen

Simpson, and Neil Irwin at The Washington Post.

Among the leading b-to-b tech reporters in the trade world are Michael

Vizard of InfoWorld, Stephanie Stahl at Information Week, Richard

Pastore at CIO, Allan Holmes at Federal Computer Week, and Joseph

Panettieri at Smart Partner.

It takes more than an IPO

Like virtually everyone else touched by the technology market's rise and

fall, reporters covering b-to-b technology have become a bit gun shy

about touting the next big thing. "You have to remember the journalists

at all of these different publications have been on the same

roller-coaster experience as the companies and the PR firms over the

past three years," says Mark Hausman, president of Strategic

Communications Group. "During the exuberance of the economy, there were

a lot of thought leadership well as stories about specific

personalities that were running companies. Journalists today have no

interest in that."

Now tech journalists want proof positive that a company can back up its

claims. "There's no doubt that in today's tech marketplace, journalists

are looking for case studies," says Michael Neumeier, VP of PR at

Atlanta-based Abovo. "Journalists in this area have been burned on the

'grand vision' story, and are still willing to look at the future, but

they want to know what it is that this company is making happen


That sentiment is echoed by Richard Pastore, deputy editor of CIO

magazine, which is aimed at information officers. He says CIO's audience

wants practical information on how to do their jobs better rather than

stories on why a new product may be better than another. "In the past,

companies were willing to let it go wild and fast, and now they want to

make sure they're doing it right for the long term," he says.

Thanks to CNNfn and CNBC, b-to-b tech companies get more than their

share of airtime, although the focus tends to be on stock performance

rather than any new products or services. MS&L's Cartwright says

publicly traded companies can still use quarterly and annual earnings

announcements to get on the air and deliver some of their key messages

and projections, although she stresses that PR firms and executives have

to be wary when making forward-looking statements. Cartwright says she

urges clients to agree to interviews even when delivering news that

won't help their stock prices. "A lot of companies have gotten burned by

not being up front and not being open and accessible," she says.

Targeting is the new industry standard

In general, the media outlets focused on this part of the technology

industry have been impacted by the decline in advertising.

Once-high-flying magazines like The Industry Standard, Red Herring, and

Business 2.0 (which recently merged with eCompany Now) have all

struggled recently, and layoffs and reduced editorial content have

robbed them of some of their luster.

But more importantly, many b-to-b companies and their PR firms are

realizing that it's the often staid trade outlets - rather than glossy

business publications - that end up driving new business simply because

those are the ones being read consistently by current or potential

customers. "Since the beginning of the year, those trade publications -

the verticals - have become more important than in the past," notes

Larry Meltzer, GM of Fleishman-Hillard's Dallas office.

Hausman concurs, saying, "If you asked me 18 months ago, I'd say I'd

much rather have a profile piece in The Industry Standard, but today I'd

rather be in CIO or Information Week."

The good news is that there are plenty of outlets for trade-oriented

tech stories, including regional and metropolitan business and

technology journals, as well as Internet newsletters and sites. "For a

lot of smaller companies, these are good places to be," notes Meltzer,

whose office represents Yahoo! Broadcast Services, among others.

"Obviously, you can't always be in The Wall Street Journal or Business

Week, but the online sites are also very influential for customers, and

we want to be where our clients' customers are."

While in most cases it pays to reach out to as many journalists as

possible, b-to-b technology is one of those categories where the right

story with the right reporter can go a long way toward positively

changing attitudes about a company. Virginia-based O'Keeffe & Company

targeted Ian Hopper of the AP for a story on the b-to-b applications of

the Palm hand-held platform. The firm flew Hopper to San Diego, and from

there to the deck of the aircraft carrier Constellation to write about

how the Navy uses Palm devices to track the quality of carrier landings.

"Obviously, we couldn't take eight reporters and put them on the deck of

the Constellation. That's not viable or allowable," says Steve O'Keeffe,

founder of O'Keeffe & Company.

The story was picked up by dozens of outlets, including The New York

Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Boston Herald, and Los Angeles Times. "Working

with an AP reporter was a fantastic way to reach audiences across print

and broadcast media," says O'Keeffe.


Newspapers: The Wall Street Journal; The New York Times; Financial

Times; The Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; San Jose Mercury News;

San Francisco Chronicle

Magazines: Business Week; Fortune; Forbes; Business 2.0/eCompany Now

(merging); Red Herring; The Industry Standard; Upside; Fast Company

Trade publications: eWeek; Information Week; InfoWorld; Computer World;

MSI; Management Systems; Smart Partner; Federal Computer Week; CIO;

Managing Automation; Computer Reseller News; Accounting Today


Internet: ZDNet; CNET;;;

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