I argue that blogging and the citizen-journalism movement got their start at About.com. About used "passionate" amateurs -- hundreds of them -- rather than professional journalists to cover a seemingly endless number of topics. When I worked there I oversaw the Money and Industry channels -- sites that covered personal finance, careers, small business, B2B, automotive, etc. And one of our more popular sites, much to the surprise of many, was about economics.
Today the Wall Street Journal has a piece about the growing popularity of economics bloggers. Given About's history, I'm not surprised by that news. Nor am I surprised that one of these blogging economists focuses on the oil industry. The petroleum space is likely to attract a number of standalone journalists. Traders such as Phil Flynn and analyst groups such as IFR Energy Services already compete with news providers by offering newsletters as brand extensions.
B2B publishers need to be aware that they are vulnerable to new, standalone journalists -- whether they be industry professionals turned bloggers; economists and academics with insight into the industry you cover; or former employees armed with online-publishing software.
The early successes in B2B standalone journalism are likely to be those folks who can carve a niche in a space that covers both B2B and B2C. In other words, look for people to launch products that serve two levels of news and information. One level is for professionals -- the classic B2B media model. The other level is for consumers who have an interest in how an industry influences their lives. Economics fits that model. So does petroleum. For everyone who makes his living trading gasoline futures, there are thousands who want to understand how gas prices work. The train industry is another example of this sort of hybrid B2B/B2C space.
tags: journalism, b2b, media, trade press, magazines, entrepreneurial journalism, standalone journalism