In the Move From Free to Fee, Where Lies B2B?

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Even though most sites tend to be free, publishers are experimenting and are open to whatever works. "IDG is a radically de-centralized company," says Patrick Kenealy, CEO of IDG, one of the world's leading technology media companies. "Each of our publications and publication groups has their own Web sites. Each unit has their own staff and technology and the business units build their own sites; there's no enforced look and feel and there's no one business model." He says, "It is like Nabisco: Oreos are more important than who makes Oreos." Kenealy explains the differences with PCWorld.com, which is advertising supported, Computerworld.com, which is a mix of ads and sponsorships, and NetworkWorldFusion, which is mainly sponsorship—each has been successful, but with different revenue models. And they make money. "PCWorld.com has 10% of the overall revenue for PCWorld Magazine and all from advertising—millions in ad revenue," according to Kenealy. "The Web site is its own profit center and the person who runs the site has publisher rank in the organization."

"B2B publishers have always made money online," adds Jonathan Lewin, chief technology officer and founder of eMeta, a provider of software for enterprises seeking to maximize the value of their digital assets and services. "The Web is not the first time they've sold online; often they've already gotten experience with aggregators and others. Now the publishers have direct relationship with the users of their sites," says Lewin, "so they can focus on up-sell and cross-sell—it's a stronger customer relationship. Some publishers with traditional print properties and new business on the Web are driving a lot of new revenue and even new print subscriptions."

American Business Media's Hughes agrees that online business does not harm print subscriptions, "Internet delivery of B2B content is additive to magazines, not a replacement. The Web is instantaneous and supplements a weekly or monthly [print publication]."

Observers have also cited the continued value of content syndication as a significant component in the revenue mix for delivering B2B content. "We're another distribution arm for the publishers," says Viji Krishnan, vice president of content development for Dialog, a worldwide provider of online-based information services. "We represent 700 or so publishers, but the majority of them also have their own online channel. We have a great distribution model beyond what the publishers can do themselves."

Multiple Sites, Same Content
A fascinating way many forward-looking B2B publishers bring in extra money is by re-purposing their content and creating multiple sites for different user profiles. Typically, the strategy involves two broad categories of sites. First, a series of destination sites are created that act as online companions to print publications and are used by those loyal to the print title. Then the publisher's content is re-organized around a series of portals that are intended to attract more casual users or those searching for specific products or services, and who might be willing to pay for content. CMP's Azzara explains how the approach works: "In the course of the past year, we've done research that shows the three reasons why our audience goes on line: to stay up-to-date because things move fast; comprehensive product information when you want to purchase something; and peer support to create common knowledge." He says, "TechWeb.com is re-oriented as a content packager to organize and categorize the content and put into topically-oriented sections and also to create some original content. Articles are posted there, but the user goes to the original site, say InformationWeek.com to get the article."

By re-packaging content from their destination sites for the building trade, Hanley-Wood has used this strategy to create www. ebuild.com, a premier portal for builders, remodelers, architects, and other industry professionals. Rouda explains how demographics have driven the creation of the portal: "ebuild is so important because 91% of our industry is online and 78% is online daily—and these are construction professionals." He says, "When we ask why they go online, the number one answer—95% of people—are online to research products. When the question is asked differently: What's your preferred way to look for product information? The answer is on the Internet by a margin of three to one." Rouda goes on to say, "A builder's job is to put together hundreds or thousands of products to create a building and construction is kind of a fashion business, like who has the coolest faucets. What we discovered is that aggregation of all that product content has tremendous value. The taxonomy is critical for the 300 buckets of information because each has unique specifications. For example, we need to coordinate data such as color both as each manufacturer's propriety color, say emerald, and the generic color, green, that can be mapped. You've now created an advertising opportunity that's unbelievable. We reach not only builders, but those particular builders who are specifically looking for faucets."

Jim Louderback at Ziff Davis also makes use of a portal strategy. "Most buyers need different things from sites such as keeping up-to-date or to research big purchases," he says. "I got sick of the big aggregators taking my content and building portals around it. So we've focused on building some of our own portals, which we call supersites, such as http://wireless.ziffdavis.com and http://storage. ziffdavis.com. If you want to keep up-to-date you go to a destination site; but if you need to make a decision you go to a portal, so we want to do both. I want to be able to tag original articles based on content type so I can auto-create portal sites around other areas."

Bart Lautenbach, director of IBM WebSphere Commerce, a software solution for content providers, agrees that value lies with re-purposing of content. According to Lautenbach, "Segmentation of usage is important for the B2B business model. When content is used one way it has different value than in another. Selling content for B2B must be done in the way the customer does business."

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