Talk about juxtaposition. Just a day after InfoCommerce 2005, while I am still trying to absorb all the new business models and innovation demonstrated and discussed in an intense two-day period, I came across a post by Rafat Ali of PaidContent.org, listing some of his key take-aways from his recent mixer in Washington, DC. One of them jumped right out at me: "The traditional B2B information people are asleep at the wheel...seriously. They deserve all they're getting."
I can't take issue with Rafat's assessment because I don't know which B2B publishers attended his event, but I will state -- strongly -- that there is life, vitality and success in B2B information publishing. This success has been a function of vision, hard work and investment. While some individual publishers won't make it, the medium as a whole continues to advance.
Are the traditional B2B publishers uniformly getting clobbered? What we heard at InfoCommerce 2005 suggests otherwise. Rich Malloch, President of Hearst Business Media, detailed some of the company's activities in the healthcare sector, where they've become so integrated into the workflow of client hospitals that they now actually define the workflow, and are now seeing average contract terms of five years, and where the average life of a customer is now 40 years, and we're not talking about small-ticket sales either. Joe Douress of LexisNexis Martindale Hubbell, a company with a 100+ year history, has re-defined itself online to reach both the B2B and B2C markets, and now enjoys 15 million searches (not mere home page hits) annually, and has become the number one online lawyer directory in the process. Add in some of the stunning growth and success of newcomers like Jigsaw, Zigg's and TechTarget, and what I see is an industry that is humming.
How about creativity? Thomson Gale, another "traditional" publisher, described a fascinating initiative that makes its database content available to the patrons of its library customers, online, at home, and through the major search engines. Jigsaw Data and Zigg's described entirely new business models where users supply and maintain the content, and pay for the privilege.
It doesn't get much more creative than that, and their numbers suggest that the marketplace likes the concept ... a lot.
I agree with Rafat that those publishers with their heads buried in the sand are in trouble, and probably do deserve what they get. But the group at InfoCommerce 2005 evidenced lots of innovation and success, and database publishing in particular will continue to dominate the intellectual dialog for some time to come.