What jumped out at me in the course of completing a number of recent client research projects is that market leaders in several different verticals were offering their subscription clients not just content, but analysis and sometimes consulting as well. What we may be seeing playing out is the "high tech/high touch" trend identified by futurist John Naisbitt. He predicted the rise of high touch as consumers sought more emotionally satisfying experiences in their business experiences. I think in the world of B2B, it's a lot more practical, but just as profound.

Information providers that offer access to an analyst staff are really offering skilled hands to substitute for the reduced levels of support businesspeople have within their own organizations. Where in the past, a corporate staffer might turn to an assistant or the corporate information center to chase down a specific fact or statistic, now these businesspeople are turning to information providers. It's not so much that this is simply the influence of the new generation of workers who can't or won't think for themselves. Rather, what we are seeing is time-pressured people seeking knowledgeable help wherever they can get it. That this help is skilled, readily accessible and bundled into the price of an information product only makes it more compelling.

This trend is larger than just access to analysts. Increasingly, we hear information providers tell us that companies routinely buy not just their data, but additional help in using it and extracting value from it. Many data providers with strong brands in their vertical markets report that they are regularly asked to consult to their clients on big picture issues and industry trends. This move towards advice takes many forms, but it seems to be bubbling up everywhere.

Admittedly, it is not a small decision to offer your subscribers access to your analyst staff, especially if you don't currently have one. But I will note that where we see it, such access is almost always a high-value differentiator. I know a number of data publishers who have turned down consulting projects because it is a very different and labor-intensive activity, but sometimes a smart partnership can yield most of the benefit with limited if any downside.

My advice: think about offering advice. It's not the right decision for every market or publisher, but it is a clear path away from the "just the facts ma'am" historical positioning of the data publishing industry, and has the potential to deliver a durable boost to your overall value proposition.