UBM Tech

Paul Miller out at UBM Tech. UBM Tech rolled into UBM America

What does this mean? With the DesignWest/EmbeddedSystems/EELive (or whatever it called this week) conference in decline along with all the other high-end, electronic focused conferences UBM sponsors, we can probably expect the publishing arms of the organization focused more and more on the consumer side of the business. Marketing and advertising budgets continue to shrink and large corporations are investing more of those srhinking budgets into being their own publishers. They aren't doing it very well, but they are investing in it.

Yesterday I saw the announcement that UBM completed their annual reorganization and about three hours later got an email from Paul Miller that he was shown the door.  

Miller was the CEO of the UBM Tech division that has been around for a couple of cycles at the ever-morphing British corporation, and has been a senior executive all the way back to the CMP days.  He survived several putsches and has been central in redefining the organization from a "publishing" company to a "marketing" organization.  That brought a great deal of derision his way but he is to be credited in at least keeping the journalism part of the organization alive even as it shrunk in importance to the UBM bottom line (the last I say, print and online advertising represented just 7 percent of the company revenues).

Under his direction, the division saw increased profitability and was beginning to coalesce into something that might be easily defined.  This new reorganization throws all that definition into a cocked hat.  UBM Tech, UBM Medica, UBM Canon (explaining why Rich Nass left for Open Systems Media), UBM Mexico and UBM Connect (the division that covered everything NOT tech) have been merged and will soon be joined by UBM Brazil as a single entity.  That means another CEO is about to go.  That would be Jean-François Quentin who was named CEO just in March.  Sally Shankland, the CEO of UBM Connect replaces them all.

What does this mean? With the DesignWest/EmbeddedSystems/EELive (or whatever it called this week) conference in decline along with all the other high-end, electronic focused conferences UBM sponsors, we can probably expect the publishing arms of the organization focused more and more on the consumer side of the business.  Marketing and advertising budgets continue to shrink and large corporations are investing more of those srhinking budgets into being their own publishers.  They aren't doing it very well, but they are investing in it.

I'll have more later. but this is a very interesting evolution.

UBM Tech aims at agency business now

Been up to my eyeballs developing content and conversation over at the new launched ARM Connected Community (check it out, lots of cool stuff) so I've been negligent on posting the past couple of weeks.  Then UBM Tech goes and starts blowing up the PR Agency industry earlier this week and it's probably time to do a spot analysis.

 As reported in BtoB Media this week, UBM Tech's Create unit is designed to cut out the middle man in marketing services (meaning agencies and third party creative services) and provide soup-to-nuts communication chains between the companies that pay them and the customers of those companies.  In other words, you want to guarantee you will show up in a UBM Tech publication news story? Then talk to one of their sales agents.  And be prepared to pay through the nose because you will be buying event services, graphic and video services, content creation services and a bunch of other stuff.

 “Historically our customers thought of us as merely a media company,” said Scott Mozarsky, president of UBM Tech. “They bought events or some form of display advertising from us. [Now] more customers are recognizing that we can do things that they didn't realize. We're able to offer our customers programs that run across paid, owned and earned media,” 

UBM Tech has said they are not bypassing agencies, only creating a new way for agencies to work with them, but agencies primarily coordinate multiple sources of content and creative to find the best price for the client.  If UBM wants all of that work for themselves, what's the point in having an agency.

We at Footwasher Media think it's a great idea for UBM Tech because now it will capture every marketing budget dollar and cut out every potential competition ... in the short term.  However, we think this will prove disastrous in the long term for UBM.

Doing a buy at UBM has been, for some time, the most expensive proposition around, and they could demand that kind of money because they have been the top dog for some time.  But there was still some competition among journalism operations.  UBM Tech has already said it has, in essence, left the journalism game (although still pointing to the fact that they have well respected journalists on staff). But they are a "marketing services" company now and, therefore, a lot of what they do doesn't fall under the traditional term of journalism, and the pesky ethics that come with it.  The UBM Tech journalists are, effectively, insulated from the money making side of the business, but they are given marching orders regarding where they need to be and when to gather information.  And that is primarily wrapped around UBM events.

In the meantime, there are lots of respected journalists that have left UBM and traditional media and are now working directly for the companies that UBM is courting, because their marketing budgets are the only ones big enough to afford the Create unit's services.  This is where the disaster is brewing.

As more companies find they can create the same or even better content, and then deliver it on their own media, they are going to wonder why they ever needed UBM. 

Guess what? That's already happening.  I've talked to marketing decision makers at several companies with big budgets using UBM Tech services and they are making plans to dump UBM in favor of in-house programs.  That's where on the long run, this decision is not going to be good for UBM.

UBM Tech management isn't to be castigated for these decisions.  They are giving their sponsors/clients exactly what they have been asking for a decade... complete control over the message, and a little fudging on the ethics of real content engagement.  The old warning, "be careful what you wish for because you might get it," is playing out right now.  The sponsors financing these changes are discovering that it might not be giving them what they want, which is real sales growth from marketing.

Why that growth isn't happening derives from Google's "Zero Point of Truth" concept, and we will get to that in a near-future post.  But I've told you what we are thinking at Footwasher, now. Let's hear from you, especially you in the agency world.  What do you think about UBM Tech's encroachment on your business?  How would you play ball with them?  Have you found getting into UBM media harder or have you just given up?  And maybe we should hear from the UBM media competitors who might be likely to gain from this decision: how are you going to change your model to deal with this?

Speaking of ethics in sponsored content...

An article today in Forbes on ethics in sponsored content brought back memories of our recent discussions regarding UBM Tech's methodology changes and the larger discussion about whether corporations can be expected to deliver ethical content.

The article points out that Edelman has posted their own set of ethics regarding sponsored content that remarkably mirrors Footwasher Media's position:  That it isn't PR or advertising.  It's something different from what most corporate advocates practice and it must be, by nature, ethical or it loses all value.

Many people in the news business have taken ethical standards for granted.  They seem to believe that they are intertwined with the genesis of journalism itself.  It isn't true.  The news business, supported by advertising began in the 1700s with Benjamin Franklin's founding of the Pennsylvania Gazette, but the separation of advertising from editorial did not appear until the mid 20th century, and the codified standard of ethics for journalists did not appear until 1973 (I know because I helped write them).  Even today, however, you would be hard pressed to find a journalist who knows what those standards are or even applies them in full.

We are entering a new age in journalism and communications.  It is different from what it was 50 years previous.  I imagine it will look different from now in another 50 years.  Ethics will arise from the practice as an evolutionary process, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Mannion elevated to VP

UBM Tech just named Patrick MannionVice President/Brand Director Electronics Group reporting to Scott Mozarsky, President, Media and Partner Solutions.

Mannion has risen rapidly in the ranks at UBM Tech after returning from a brief stint as Director of Content for Hearst Electronics Group.  He's been leading the charge at EDN.com since the acquisition of the title from Canon/Reed a few years ago.  He's fully engaged in the UBM Tech philosophy switch announced at the start of the year and he's a posterboy for the position that the company's philosophy is lacking in journalistic integrity.  I've not known many journalists who understand the ethics of the profession better.

Mannion will oversee the electronics communities including EETimes.com, EDN.com, Embedded.com and, I assume EBNonline.com (although that wasn't specifically mentioned in the announcement, which gives me cause to wonder how long the title will last).

 He will also be directing the Community Activation Platform (CAP) and Community in a Box (CiaB) programs created by UBM DeusM, the integrated marketing services arm of UBM, and  UBM Tech events DESIGN West and DesignCon.

The press release quoted him as saying that his job is to focus on collaboration and trust, delivering "the right information at the right time to help them get from ideation to production."  That doesn't sound like him but I get the idea.  "At the same time," it goes on, "our business partners trust us to provide marketing solutions without compromising editorial integrity. Lastly, a brand director has to create a credible environment that ensures community contributors are providing relevant information and insight."

I've said before that I'm not taking sides on UBM Tech's decision.  I will say, however, putting Mannion at the center is a good way to make sure it works.  Hope they don't burn him out him in the process.

Alex Wolfe surfaced today

Alex Wolfe, who left UBM Tech a few weeks after Design West in San Jose, has taken a position as director of strategic communications at Oracle.  Most bets were on him moving to Intel, but I wasn't really sure that would have been the greatest move for either Wolfe of Intel.  The chip company already has several journalistic enterprises underway. There's no word on the details of his new position but I think we'll see Oracle jumping into the corporate journalism world with Alex leading the charg.

This as a very positive move for Oracle and a good one for Alex.  He seems to think it's "not so dark" being on the corporate side, according to his comments on his Linkedin page.

Wonder what SAP is thinking?

A clarification on UBM Canon

Got a call from Rich Nass, brand director of Design News, about an important distinction within the UBM family.  Design News and it's associated conferences are not part of UBM Tech.  Rich works in the division know as UBM Canon, which was originally made up of the print properties that had been purchased a few years ago from Canon Communications, which had acquired the properties from Reed Elsevier, which previously belonged to.... Well, you get the idea, and yes it is hard to keep up with it all.

Anywho... UBM Canon is not out of the print game.  Design News is still very much a print AND online enterprise with a healthy circulation (145,000) and online reach of over 300,000 and a boatload of conferences all dedicated to horizontal design industries including manufacturing, medical devices, packaging, pharma, etc.


Like UBM Tech, UBM Canon considers itself a "community" driven by the input of it's audience.  Rich says 75 percent of the content in Design News print and online is written by the readers.  The remaining 25 percent is produced by the 10-person editorial staff.  Also like UBMl, that staff "doesn't sweat over a story for two months to produce a 3,000 word article," but instead cranks out a series of much smaller articles every day for online and print publication.

So other than the print property, UBM Tech and UBM Canon are much the same philosophically.

Now do you think you have a clear idea what UBM is all about?  Neither do I.  I think I've got these two heads of the Hydra under control.  We'll see.