Behind B2B’s Best Media Brand: Chief Investment Officer

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Long gone are the days when a B2B editor could be a platform specialist. A typical day for the modern B2B journalist runs the gamut from breaking news to in-depth features to surveys to webcasts to podcasts to event programming to awards programs and more, with social media tying in at every turn.  

It’s that ability to provide editorial excellence across all media that earned Chief Investment Officer the honor of Best Media Brand (Overall Excellence) at the 2019 Neal Awards. It’s not that CIO is doing anything radically different—they just do it extremely well. “CIO sets the bar with its wide-ranging coverage, high-level industry insights and (perhaps most impressively) its keen sense of artistic design,” said the Neal judges. “Very well done.”

Chief Investment Officer is not an outlier—in many ways, the brand is representative of B2B media, with a content team of just three full-time editors (Christine Giordano, Larry Light and Chris Butera), its second new owner in five years (Institutional Shareholders Services bought CIO’s parent company, Strategic Insight, in January) and a constant charge to reevaluate and reinvent itself in a changing market.  

Chief Investment Officer serves its market with daily news, in-depth content including CIO Spotlights, Market Drilldown, Shop Talk and Data Room (industry surveys conducted by CIO), awards programs, multimedia (webcasts, podcasts and videos) and events, including a two-day CIO Summit, an Influential Investors’ Forum and an Innovation Awards night.

In the first four months of 2019, CIO has drawn 100,000 new readers, which managing editor Christine Giordano (pictured) attributes to the focus on in-depth stories. “Now that we have got our feet under us as team that’s been assembled in the last two years, we are starting to get deeper into topics that are affecting our readers,” she adds. “It’s getting our readers excited—I can see it by the numbers. Financial topics aren’t always the most transparent and we’re having a better understanding because our CIOs are trusting us with interesting information that makes a difference in providing a relevant and useful product.”    

To foster that two-way exchange with the market, CIO created a digital and in-person Think Tank for CIOs with specialties ranging from public and private pension plans to foundations to endowments and sovereign wealth funds. “There’s a psychology to what your readers need and want and what we found over and over again was that CIOs want to learn from each other,” says Giordano. “We thought, ‘what if we put them in one room and whatever they discuss stays in the room.' It really allows them to debate and exchange ideas.’”

A Winning Digital Design

In spite of (or perhaps because of) CIO being digital-only, artwork is one way the brand distinguishes itself. Neals judges specifically cited the work of CIO's designer, SVP and creative director SooJin Buzelli, which would not be out of place at a high-end, highbrow consumer magazine, as a major factor in the win.

“Judges really singled her work out,” says Giordano. “SooJin allows a sense of humor into the art designs. These are often the kinds of illustrations you would find on the cover of a book or fantasy novel. When you see something unexpected, it releases pleasure hormone in brain.”

B2B As Force for Change

One of the crucial lessons from the Neal Awards year after year is that B2B journalism can be more than connecting buyers and sellers (among the winners this year was “Nobody’s Home,” a 10-part podcast from American Banker on the impact of urban blight that took the Grand Neal, as well as “Death By Trench,” a look at the leading cause of construction site deaths by Equipment World).

Giordano and her team see their mission expanding under their new owners.  "Climate change is becoming a more relevant topic to both investors and environmentalists,” says Giordano. “Being acquired by ISS helps us because we are able to delve into ESG investing without trepidation. In the future, we will be partnering with ISS on research and resources to explore an issue without fear of greenwashing it. I would say that’s going to help our brand grow and hopefully, the world at large. If money moves the world and money helps to find solutions for the climate, that puts an even greater mantel of responsibility on us and gives us a stronger sense of mission.”

Matt Matt Kinsman is vice president of content + programming at Connectiv, the only association focused on the integrated b-to-b model—including publications, events, digital media, marketing services and business information. Prior to joining Connectiv's predecessor American Business Media in 2011, Kinsman was executive editor of Folio:, the leading information provider for the magazine industry.