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State of Business Media with Brian Hartz and Bridgette Bello [audio]

Megan Holmes

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Click the arrow above to listen to St. Pete Catalyst publisher Joe Hamilton’s full conversation with Business Observer’s Brian Hartz and Tampa Bay Business and Wealth’s Bridgette Bello.

The coronavirus pandemic is causing uncertain economic times for every industry, but in many ways, it feels like the dying breath of old media.

To discuss how Tampa Bay-based business news publications are keeping up with the times, thriving in the face of market volatility and continuing to serve the public tell important stories, Brian Hartz of Business Observer and Bridgette Bello of Tampa Bay Business and Wealth join Catalyst publisher Joe Hamilton in a conversation on business media.

How publications are pivoting to meet the needs of changing markets

Hartz sees the coronavirus pandemic as a tipping point, helping push the Business Observer to implement what they’re informally calling “Business Observer 3.0,” a new iteration of their product that will be more nimble and more newsy, focused on both their bread and butter evergreen content and more “breaking news” relevant to the moment. “We’ve always kind of positioned ourselves more as a magazine trapped in a newspaper,” Hartz said. “But this has definitely been an awakening for us, we’ve had to really scramble … We’ve really rolled into action this week, and started making tons of calls and I’ve already written two articles that will run in next week’s paper about the impact of the virus and it’s not going to be a pretty picture, it’s a real gut punch for many people.”

Bello says TBBW has also been rolling in the direction of adding more “breaking news” with their weekly newsletter product, alongside from the monthly magazine, but TBBW has made a conscious effort to stay positive. Bello believes the role of TBBW is to stay above the noise of breaking news, to help direct leaders in how to communicate with employees and tell stories with a unique perspective.

New revenue models for targeted audiences

Hartz says the Business Observer seeks to be the voice of the executive. Their approach is to curate how to take that breaking news, digest it and act on it in an accelerated media environment. Bello says that CEO, the person everyone turns to during times of crisis, is the audience of TBBW too. In fact, TBBW, Business Observer and St. Pete Catalyst have that audience in common – with different products that work harmoniously together.

“We’re an anomaly in the print world because we’re profitable,” Hartz says. “Do I wish we had other reporters to help me out? Of course I do.” But continued layoffs at the Tampa Bay Times, which were announced this week, call into question the long-term viability of traditional newspapers with large editorial and print product staffs. Hartz says it’s the diversified revenue footprint of the Business Observer that helps keep its footing in a rapidly changing and challenging work environment.

As publications pivot their delivery models, new revenue stream opportunities are opening as well. Bello has seen an advertising bump thanks to TBBW‘s weekly newsletter, and Hartz says the Business Observer may be working towards a tiered system based on a membership model, where members would have access to premium content.

One thing seems clear: The model of specialized media – and not trying to be all things to all people – is thriving.

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