Dun-Bradstreet-Credibility-Corp-Logo-jpg_2Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corporation, an independent company with such an extensive relationship with Dun & Bradstreet that it was even granted use of the vaunted D&B name, has been targeting smaller businesses with not only traditional D&B credit products, but a beta offering of what might be called a “next generation credit rating,” a so-called credibility score that examines the company from a number of different non-financial perspectives, yielding a letter grade and presumably an online trust mark that companies can use to build confidence with both suppliers and customers. It’s a clever and ambitious concept. And there are some serious resources behind this venture: Boston-based private equity firm Great Hill Partners is backing the venture with in excess of $100 million. In an apparently related development, D&B Credibility recently announced the launch of the “Credibility Review Business Marketplace,” an innovative move to partner with publishers to extend the reach of its credibility ratings, by turning B2B data publishers into a sales channel. D&B Credibility indicates a number of publishers have already signed onto this program.

I’m still waiting to get full details on this program from the company, leaving me free to speculate wildly, a favorite pastime. Here’s what I picture:

D&B Credibility has licensed access to the full D&B business database, and this provides a content backbone to the initiative. When it emerges from beta, D&B Credibility will presumably move to aggressively sell credibility scores to smaller businesses. Each sale yields a richly detailed business profile (part of the score involves “transparency,” so participating companies are obliged to supply all sorts of useful information – smart!) that the participating company is highly motivated to keep current (yielding high leverage user-generated content). These enhanced listings are added to the basic listings in the content backbone.

To accelerate adoption of the credibility scores, D&B Credibility will partner with publishers on an intriguing offer: a self-maintaining database offering a growing number of credibility scores, that the publisher can access for free in exchange for selling credibility scores (and anything else it wants) to companies in its vertical market.

As I envision it, publishers would simply flag the companies they want to appear in their vertical market buying guides, getting in effect a customized view of the larger database. The publisher codes each company against its own vertical market taxonomy, and presto-whammo, it’s got a high quality database that costs almost nothing to build or maintain. All it has to do is sell the credibility scores and other advertising to companies that it has flagged. For trade magazine publishers in particular, selling ads is a true core competency, where database development and maintenance is not.

What’s in this for D&B Credibility? It gets a revenue cut from every credibility score a publisher sells. It gets all the company information being collected (everything goes into its backbone database), and it gets valuable help in building momentum and acceptance for its scores.

Is this a good deal for publishers? When it comes to vertical market buying guides, the majority of publishers have unevenly maintained databases with limited company information. This approach not only goes a long way to solving the twin issues of data quality and data depth, it also provides the ability to sell a new and useful offering – a B2B trust mark.

Fascinating stuff, and well worth watching as the product rolls out from beta.