Investment in publications reaps dividends for 1105

Buylines | Policies, strategies and trends to watch

Steve Charles

The recent acquisition of Government Computer News, Washington Technology and the FOSE trade show by Federal Computer Week's parent company sent a shockwave throughout our government information technology community in late December.

Advertisers have been asking many questions. Exactly who reads these publications? How much subscriber overlap is there? What is the editorial focus? Where should I advertise?

For the first time in the history of the government IT industry, a single publisher, 1105 Government Information Group, can definitively declare that the consumers of news and information about government IT are indeed highly diverse.

Dispelled once and for all are the myths about duplicated readership among GCN and FCW, as the analysis of these two publications' subscribers revealed a mere 12 percent duplication in readership.

This publishing merger is a fortunate example in which consolidation paves the way for greater differentiation between each publication, adding value to both readers and advertisers. The new publishing strategy, called "360 Degree Access to the Government Technology Buying Team," recognizes three broad audiences and their different perspectives.

One audience type is defined as those required to do the management planning, set the information technology agenda, articulate the vision, create policy and manage its adherence to drive business value. Most of FCW's subscribers fall within this category.

Another audience type is defined as the technologists who are buying, building and managing systems, in addition to continually evaluating technology for what's new and what works. The majority of GCN's subscribers belong to this category.

A third audience is defined by the thousands of contractors of all sizes and varying levels of expertise delivering an incredibly diverse set of technology and support services to the government. These readers, focused on business and contract opportunities, are the primary subscribers to Washington Technology.

Of course, each of these publications will continue to cover the same front-page news events that shape our industry. But now under a consolidated publisher, each unique publication can increasingly provide editorial analysis that's focused on the unique needs and perspectives of its primary audience, providing more in-depth reporting for each segment, while giving advertisers a way to reach a more targeted audience.

I'm glad to see this increased ability to reach specific audience segments in this large, extremely fragmented market. From my perspective of trying to get commercial technology successfully implemented in government programs, the challenge is always to narrowly define the relatively small set of individuals who really need to understand a particular new technology and how it applies to government.

For most manufacturers of complex commercial technology, these individuals number in the hundreds as opposed to thousands. The challenge is finding those relatively few people within each of the government's management layers. Everyone agrees that the people who are thinking about the implications of autonomic computing are different from those thinking about the next generation of speech recognition, and those are probably different yet again from those thinking about Web 3.0.

As our IT systems and the underlying technology become increasingly complex, we need to be able to reach ever smaller, more narrowly defined audiences with the information they need to chart agency vision, develop business cases, craft acquisition plans and conduct procurements as well as those who buy, build and maintain systems. These audiences include government employees and contractors working on behalf of the government. Reaching these gatekeepers, stakeholders and influential people without alienating the many thousands of people who don't care about a particular technology is the art and science of marketing complex commercial technology in this ecosystem.

I'm looking forward to the potential promised by this publishing consolidation whereby the information gathered in the subscription registration process for the newly rebranded 1105 Government Information Group products could increasingly deliver smaller, more targeted subsets of the market that are most likely interested or actively involved in a specific technology category.

Steve Charles is co-founder of immixGroup, a government business consulting firm in McLean, Va. E-mail him at Steve_Charles@immixgroup.com.

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