Like so many strands of publishing right now, B2B brands are searching for paid content models that offset the collapse in classified advertising.
But paid-for B2B subscriptions need high value experiences for professionals and tools that help people do their jobs. Sure people like to be informed with news coverage - but is news as valuable as data, that can be packaged into products that are actually useful?
One compelling example of a new generation of B2B data product is Duedil.com. Launched 12 months ago, it's an online clearing house for financial information, offering free access to company information, earnings figures and key personnel for thousands of UK and Ireland companies. Mobile and tablet apps are naturally on the way soon.
Here's the page for Top Right Group, the artist formerly known as Emap:
If you've ever had the annoyance of searching through Companies House Loading... records online, you should find the Duedil experience something of a revelation. It's not hard to see how compelling Duedil is for a wide range of people and businesses compared to other financial data providers out there.
Oh, and the founders have already turned down acquisition offers of up to $24 million.
Freemium data model
So what's the price for a service like that? Nothing. It's a classic freemium model and the site is building up a userbase before it launches its Marketplace section, where additional data sources can be bought.
Duedil founder and CEO Damian Kimmelman told the News:Rewired conference last week: "(the internet) is making lives really difficult for data providers - data is becoming commoditised to the point where the provider may as well give it away for free."
There is no shortage of B2B media brands who cover the fortunes of companies, but the definition of an editorial operation is one with limited capacity to cover everything. Compare that to what Duedil offers with its 1.5 million articles:
"We have access to every single financial of every single company in Europe... We have access to payment data, to CCJ information, to credit scores, to industry-specific information, all the way down to things like energy consumption of FTSE 100 companies.
For Kimmelman, "the whole point is this data needs to be brought together. When you bring it together you can start to understand really exciting trends and things that are happening within the economy."
All the news that's fit to crawl?
It's worth asking why has Kimmelman decided to build a business that instead of reporting on data, offers it to users in a structured way. Is it better to crawl data sources, adding 50,000 new entries daily, than invest in 300-word summaries from reporters?
Reed Business Information Loading... has been steadily selling off its magazine brands for years while at the same time making a success of selling data products. Brands such as ICIS Loading... , XpertHR and Bankers Almanac accounted for 25 percent of RBI revenue last year (annual report).
UBM now makes 70 percent of its revenue from digital media, driven mainly by data services. The annual revenue growth rate of its digital data segment is a healthy 8.8 percent. For UBM's few remaining print brands, it's a 9.2 percent annual drop.
None of this means that B2B journalism is dead. The success of the FT, Euromoney and others have shown that a robustly priced, content-led subscription model can work.
But it's hard to see how brands will build profitable businesses fit to last in a post-print world without intelligent products - not just content.
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