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Taking the Leap to B2B

Taking the Leap to B2B

Picture of Angilee Shah

Wendy Johnson spent five years as a reporter at newspapers in Cape Cod and then on Capitol Hill before taking the leap to the B2B (business-to-business) media world.

"It's something that I fell into accidentally," Johnson says. But she discovered that writing about one industry for a new audience of executives and others in healthcare was both "really interesting" and viable. "I could see that there was a career track here."

Johnson is now the publisher of FierceHealthcare, as well as the other healthcare sites run by FierceMarkets, a B2B "e-media" company. Today's FierceHealthcare headlines include "$50K bribe yields $500K in contracts with Naval medical center," "10 Fierce Trailblazing Hospitals" and "MDMA: Suspect GPO-hospital deals cost taxpayers $38B annually."

This week, Career GPS is exploring the world of B2B. Should you take the leap? Johnson offers some insider tips to help you decide. Jobs, awards and fellowship listings at the end of this post -- including Johnson's tips for working for FierceHealthcare. If you have ideas for future posts or listings you'd like to see here, you can log in and let me know. Keep up with Career GPS by signing up for weekly newsletters or via RSS.

Wendy Johnson
Johnson (left) loved working in newsrooms as a reporter. She recalls being the only reporter in a small town, and the excitement of attending press events and covering national politics for the Washington Blade. But she also remembers the long hours and low pay. She kept her eyes open for new opportunities and came across one to report on healthcare policy and regulations for the B2B healthcare publisher DecisionHealth.

"I applied because it sounded really interesting and the pay was almost double...I think I got the job because this company put a really high premium on reporters and editorial skills," Johnson says on the phone from Washington, D.C. DecisionHealth taught her the industry ropes, the nitty gritty of collecting information about healthcare businesses.

This brings us to her first tip: If you're thinking of taking the B2B leap as an entry or junior level reporter, look for company willing to train you. There are different kinds of B2B publishers, she says. Some, like FierceHealthcare, are advertiser-driven and look for writers who already have an understanding of the industry. They give their content away for free on the web and rely on succinctness and speed. "It's a real quick hit," Johnson says. Others, like DecisionHealth, are subscriber supported and rely on exclusive content, looking for writers who have "a sense of 'I know how to get under the skin of my audience.'"

To be successful in B2B you need to get specialized in one area, so "look for an industry that is going to be healthy and robust for a long time," Johnson says. Find industries that are brimming with news, and have huge annual conferences. Find out how many vendors attend events and how much money is being made. These are indicators of how well an industry is doing.

Johnson says that many of the people whom she has interviewed for positions with FierceHealthcare have come from newspapers. Those reporters are used to taking on an assignment that doesn't really interest them and can conjure up enough energy for a day or a week to pursue it. If you're going to apply to a trade magazine, "Make sure it's something you're really going to be interested in because you're going to be covering it every which way," Johnson cautions. "You can't fake it in B2B."

You can still do great journalism, even if you aren't writing for a general audience. "Don't think that if you're going into B2B that you have to sell out. Some of my best writing I did in B2B," Johnson says. You might not be writing features, and your writing style will change to focus on utility for people in the business, but B2B publications are breaking stories and feeding news to the mainstream press.

In B2Bs, you will need to expand your conceptions about content delivery. "I had a hard time at first understanding that my life as a B2B reporter was not just about reporting anymore," Johnson says. It's not uncommon for B2B reporters to be contacted by the marketing department to help with copy, to host conferences and organize webinars. "Business acumen" is important and B2Bs look for writers who can find new ways to promote, share and ultimately make money from their work. Arguably, mainstream media are looking for reporters to do the same these days.

Writers are valued in B2Bs, Johnson says. As you develop your expertise, you become more valuable and you will be compensated accordingly. "Obviously, it's hard to compete with the excitement of working at a daily, but I will say that if B2B is something that interests you as a reporter, you will make so much more money," Johnson says.

Here's a parting thought: FierceHealthcare is often looking for new writers. Today, they are listing two reporter/editor positions. Johnson is also accepting pitches from freelancers, who they often contract to produce e-books and cover beats when staff reporters are out of the office. If you are interested in pitching to Johnson, she cautions, make sure you are familiar with FierceHealthcare: "get a sense of the voice, the vibe." Check out the most popular stories on the site to get a feel for what they cover. When you're ready, email Johnson about your relevant experience and ideas. You can contact her by logging in (if you are a member of ReportingonHealth) and sending her a message from her profile page.

And here are other opportunities in health media:

Director of Commercial Communications, AstraZeneca (via Public Relations Society of America)
Location: Wilmington, Delaware
Status: Full Time
Medium: Communications

Financial Multimedia Reporter, Biotech Industry, The Deal
(via JournalismJobs.com)Location: New York, New York
Status: Full Time
Medium: Online, Magazine, Social Media

Associate Editor, Medical Copy Editor, Senior Editor, EverydayHealth.com
(via JournalismJobs.com)Location: New York, New York
Status: Full Time
Medium: Online

Strategic Communications Specialist, Public Health Institute
Location: Berkeley, California
Status: Full Time
Medium: Communications

Web Reporter, Kaiser Health News
Location: Washington, D.C.
Status: Full Time, One Year Term
Medium: Online

Strategic Communications Specialist, Public Health Institute
Location: Berkeley, California
Status: Full Time
Medium: Communications

Science Writing Internship, Nature Medicine
Eligibility: One year in a graduate program in journalism or have equivalent work experience in journalism
Position: Six-month internship in New York City with $1,600 monthly support
Deadline: Oct. 22, 2010
From the Website: "The intern will be closely involved in the editorial process and write news articles and briefs, as well as blog entries. This is not a paper-pushing internship! The person selected for the position will be reporting stories and working on editorial content full-time."

REMINDER: U.S. Young Journalist Program, Fulbright Kommission
Eligibility: Must be a U.S. citizen, with academic achievement and a good proposal and good to very good German language skills
Award: 10 month stay in Germany with stipends and expenses, as well as language training
Deadline: Oct. 18, 2010
From the Website: "The approximately 10-month stay begins in September and typically consists of an initial research phase, during which the grantee becomes familiar with his/her project in a German setting, followed by one or more internships with German institutions of print or broadcast media."

REMINDER: Association of Health Care Journalists - Centers for Disease Control Health Journalism Fellowships
Eligibility: Professional journalists working in the United States
Award: Week of study of public health topics at CDC campuses, membership, travel, lodging and meals
Deadline: Oct. 22, 2010
From the Website: "The AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows will: Attend sessions on epidemiology, global disease prevention efforts, pandemic flu preparedness, climate change, vaccine safety, obesity, autism and more; tour the CDC director's National Emergency Operations Center; meet new sources on policy and research; learn how to tap the agency's abundant resources to produce better stories."

REMINDER: Philip Meyer Journalism Award
Eligibility: Work published between Oct. 1, 2009 and Sept. 30, 2010 reported using social science research methods, entry fee $25-$115
Award: Cash prizes of $200-$500
Deadline: Nov. 1, 2010
From the Website: "The awards are in honor of Philip Meyer, professor emeritus and former Knight Chair of Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Meyer is the author of Precision Journalism, the seminal 1972 book (and subsequent editions) that focused growing numbers of journalists on the idea of using social science methods to do better journalism. He pioneered in using survey research as a reporter for Knight Ridder newspapers to explore the causes of race riots in the 1960s."

REMINDER: Interactive Census Workshop (Dec 12-17, 2010)
Eligibility: Journalists with interest in multimedia
Included: Lodging and meals at UC Berkeley, but not travel
Deadline: Nov. 6, 2010
From the Website: "The KDMC at UC Berkeley is offering a customized visual storytelling workshop to train journalists on new ways to process data from the 2010 Census. Fellows will illustrate the information using visualization and mapping tools to create a clearer, more meaningful picture of the complex statistics gathered in the national survey."

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