Business-to-Business (B2B) Media in UK: A mixed methods study using product variables to assess the impacts of social media on product strategies

Zhang, D. 2016. Business-to-Business (B2B) Media in UK: A mixed methods study using product variables to assess the impacts of social media on product strategies. PhD thesis University of Westminster Communication and Media Research Institute

TitleBusiness-to-Business (B2B) Media in UK: A mixed methods study using product variables to assess the impacts of social media on product strategies
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsZhang, D.

Business-to-business (B2B) media, which used to be known as the trade press, has occupied one of the blind spots of media research. Digitisation has helped transforming B2B media from their old profile of trade magazines into a dynamic media sector producing multiple publishing and off-line products with different business models. Previous work on the digitisation of media focused on the mass media and neglected the B2B sector. This study addresses this gap by examining the impacts of social media as part of the forces of digitisation on the B2B media industry in the UK and how the industry has adjusted business strategies in response to the impacts.

Literature study describes the uniqueness of B2B media in comparison with the mass media and develops an analytical framework which defines the B2B media via their core value proposition of helping audiences make money. To analyse the different ways B2B media attempt to provide this value proposition, the thesis develops a typology of B2B products using two variables: utility and timeliness. It also identifies and explained the third variable: confidentiality. Social media are found to provide audiences and users with the same utilities as B2B media do: information and connectivity. The analytical framework therefore speculates that social media may impact on different B2B products and companies either as a competition or supplement.

The study then collects empirical data to understand how the real impacts of social media and digitisation are on the variables and product strategies of B2B media. Quantitative survey and qualitative interview data from B2B media practitioners reveal the strengths and weaknesses of social media to suggest that social media partially and weakly influence the different types of B2B media products on the timeliness and confidentiality variables but have no effect on the basic utility variable. The research participants consider social media not to be in competition and respond to the impacts of social media positively by using them as connectivity tools. The B2B media practitioners also control and adjust the timeliness and confidentiality variables of their product as part of their product strategy changes, which do not seem to be a direct response to social media, but to the peer competition and the disruptions from greater digitisation forces in the market.

The conclusions of the study contradict the expectations of social media as a disruptive force to the B2B media. Instead, the data suggest a realistic allocation of internal resources by the industry to respond to the impacts of social media. As a pioneering study of its kind in the literature of media and media business research, this thesis defines the specific aspects of B2B media products and of the sector in the media landscape. The study contributes a comprehensive analytical framework with which it calls for future research of B2B media using audience, corporate structure, global markets, technology, and other perspectives.

KeywordsB2B media
trade press
trade magazines
trade journals
impacts of social media
digitisation of media,
media studies
media business models
media product strategy
media business management
PublisherUniversity of Westminster
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

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