International business media have confronted a challenging year, but are successfully diversifying to perform well in tough times, Lucy Aitken says.

The advertisers which have been swept away in the tidal wave of recession often populated those sectors that were the lifeblood of international business media: IT, telecoms, finance and banking.

In the boom year of 2000, many fly-by-night advertisers, fuelled by cash from venture capitalists, were paying ratecard, abnormally inflating the bottom lines of many international business media owners. Their audience profile - moneyed, techno-friendly business travellers - was, and remains, a hugely attractive proposition.

So how are those same media diversifying to attract new revenue streams in difficult times?

The most interesting examples show imagination on the part of the media owners. Newsweek's strategic alliances with broadcast partners, for instance, shows that the magazine has been proactive about offering more to its advertisers.

The other characteristic about many of the ways in which international business media have branched out is a certain willingness for news-based media to experiment with leisure-slanted editorial so they can cast their net further afield when seeking new advertisers. The Financial Times' How to Spend It is a prime example, but there are others. Forbes boasts a quarterly lifestyle magazine, while Time polybags a weekly fashion title, Time for Fashion, in Europe. The Wall Street Journal has also jumped on the bandwagon and offers readers the Personal Journal, a lifestyle magazine appealing to luxury goods advertisers every Friday. Meanwhile, CNN doesn't just transmit news; it has been busy developing shows such as Inside Sailing for which it has a sponsor: UBS.

This brings us to another a new trend in international business media - the fact that advertisers want to go beyond the traditional offering.

This has triggered a marked increase in the number of advertorials that media owners have been carrying and has also meant that media owners and their agencies have been working much harder to achieve standout. Particularly in challenging times, advertisers want more for their money, and who can blame them? They may not be content to run with the series of 30-second spots or run-of-page ads which appear in exactly the same places where their rival brands have a presence.

Johnnie Walker's one-minute vignettes along the "keep walking" theme, which ran on CNN and Discovery and for which the media agency, Starcom Motive, picked up a Campaign Media Award, is an excellent example. The difficulties of co-ordinating an ambitious undertaking such as this have paid off, however, offering the advertiser more for its money and giving the viewer a snippet of interesting and relevant editorial which integrates brilliantly with the other media used in the campaign.

In case you're asking yourself why an alcoholic drinks brand is advertising on a channel dedicated to natural history documentaries, remind yourself how things have changed. The non-news-based media have been diversifying as if it was going out of fashion over the past few years.

So Discovery resurrected Mastermind (albeit without Magnus Magnusson).

And National Geographic has been meeting demand from clients for packages which combine the magazine with the TV channel and the website. And if you think that Discovery and National Geographic don't attract international business advertisers, think again. HSBC is one of National Geographic's main advertisers while Airbus uses Discovery.

So just as the news-based media are attempting to encompass more lifestyle advertising, the traditional stalwarts of the ad breaks and ad pages in more news-based media, such as the banks and the airlines, are moving into new ground, accepting the fact that it might prove easier to cut through the clutter in an environment that is less news- or business-led.

Innovation along these lines is an essential tactic at the moment as, according to Zenith Optimedia, the combined advertising expenditure of the world's seven largest markets will have contracted by 7.4 per cent in real terms in 2001. That marks a more dramatic drop in one year than in two years during the last recession of 1991/1992.

Time to think outside the dodecahedron, as The Economist says.

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