Monday, July 11, 2005

Lessons from a niche publisher

The Washington Post today has an interesting look at BNA Inc., formerly known as the Bureau of National Affairs, the publisher that covers the minutiae of regulatory life in Washington, D.C. The article is about BNA's upcoming move to new offices in Arlington, Va., but make sure you read it. The piece provides information of interest to anyone in B2B publishing.
BNA produces subscription-based newsletters that cover micro niches inside federal regulatory agencies. Competition is often not an issue because, as one reporter explains, beats are so narrow that no one else covers them.
I've been warning B2B publishers that they are vulnerable to competition from their own employees. And BNA, which makes its money in specialized beats where sometimes only one person produces all the content, should be particularly vulnerable to such a threat.
But no such threat has arisen at BNA. And no such threat is likely to either. Because the 1,300- person company is owned by its employees. The built-in loyalty that comes with such a structure makes BNA less vulnerable to the threats posed by new publishing technologies than any other B2B company I know.
BNA has another advantage worth noting. The company is an advocate of clear, concise writing that emphasizes information, not prose styling. Visit the site, check out the product samples. You'll see that the writing may be dry. But it reads as if it is written by professionals, not by children enamored of cutesy tricks. That's a vast improvement over much of the throat-clearing, cliché-filled drivel that marks much of our profession.


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