Vortal Content: Eyes on the Emarketplace Prize

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The "flood" of other consortia Bartels mentioned is evinced by an article in eCommerce Business ("Traditional industries stole the emarketplace initiative from dot coms. Now what?"), which noted that "in a swiftly moving business environment where online exchanges still are announced almost daily, it's no surprise that few research firms are willing to weigh in on how many industry emarketplaces exist." The publication reported that during an eight-month period last year, it listed announcements of 165 coalition emarketplaces.

As the consortia sites "came into the market and started to gain some traction—if not in actual transactions, then at least in mind share—the dot com marketplace just basically died," Bartels said. "The transactional hubs basically found there was no one coming to their sites. They were not viable, and they tried to reposition themselves. VerticalNet, as an example, started off as an informational site and then tried to move into a transactional space. When they saw what was happening with all the transactional sites, they moved into infrastructure. They say, ‘We're going to be an enabler of marketplaces. We're going to be providing the platform.' They tried to reposition themselves that way and have been partially successful, but not terribly so."

VerticalNet now includes two strategic business units: VerticalNet Solutions, which offers infrastructure services to industry alliances, global 2000 enterprises, and Net market makers; and VerticalNet Markets, which comprises fifty-eight industry-specific marketplaces. Content offerings on their sites include email newsletters, buyers guides, industry-specific news and editorials, and archives of articles (the Beverage Online marketplace, for example, offers an archive dating from 1996).

Another company that has repositioned itself is Mountain View, California-based Ventro Corporation, which started life in 1997 as the Chemdex life sciences marketplace. Last December, Ventro restructured to focus on a marketplace service provider model that takes "online B2B marketplaces from concept to liquidity."

The company's customers include Broadlane, a healthcare supply marketplace; Industria Solutions, an energy and chemical plant equipment marketplace, and MarketMile, a business products and services marketplace.

The company's customers include Broadlane, a healthcare supply marketplace; Industria Solutions, an energy and chemical plant equipment marketplace, and MarketMile, a business products and services marketplace.

Eve Schaffer, senior manager of Ventro's content engineering and services department, noted that most of these marketplaces are still focusing on developing product catalogs, but she expects them to add significant content resources. "Content compels people to spend time on the sites," she said, "and obviously, the bigger part of their day a site becomes, the more natural it will be for them to turn to it as a place to buy as well."

Schaffer also noted there are many opportunities for trade journal publishers to form partnerships with vertical marketplaces. "For the most part, traditional publishers care about readership and online marketplaces care about transactions," she said, "but the different roles complement each other, and there's great synergy between them. People who go to a site to buy also need to have the information that's in the journals, while the information that's in the journals can lead people toward buying behavior."

A consortia-backed site trying to develop a role as not only an online marketplace, but also an aggregator of trade journal-type content is Chicago-based Transora, a marketplace for the global consumer packaged goods industry. It's owned by more than fifty consumer product companies, including Sara Lee, Heinz, and Gillette.

If you look in the Industry Resources section of Transora's site, you'll see this online note: "Why log onto multiple sites or maintain several subscriptions when you can get all the info from one source? Participants can access up-to-date general and industry news and information on Transora's site. Our industry specific offerings include:
• Articles, white papers, and studies by industry experts
• News and articles index
• Reviews and ratings by participants of seminars, books, and courses
• Links to other business and consumer goods Web sites"

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