Monday, December 24, 2007

Digging a fighting hole

Back when I was younger and even more attractive than I am today, I was a soldier.
And like other soldiers, I learned a set of skills that are sometimes difficult to transfer to the civilian world. I, for example, am a pretty good fighter with a bayonet. But my clients in the B2B world seldom have the need to employ me for my skills with edged weapons.
On the other hand, back in infantry training at Fort Benning, I learned to dig a fighting hole. And I think that will prove a valuable skill -- at least in the metaphorical sense -- in 2008.

A fighting hole, sometimes called a fox hole, is exactly what it sounds like. It's a hole in the ground from which a soldier fights.
But the key to a fighting hole is that it is a defensive position. It's the place where a soldier lives, fights and struggles to hold the line. Although it is possible to advance from a fighting hole, it is more of a place to resist an onslaught than to plan an attack.
And I've decided that it's time for B2B editors and publishers to build some fighting holes.

As the year draws to an end, I find myself worrying more and more about what next year will bring for our industry. As I mentioned a few days ago, "I'm worried that 2008 is going to be an awful year for B2B publishing."
Since I wrote that piece, I've spoken to a few more B2B folks. And nothing I'm hearing suggests that I'm wrong to be nervous.
So if I may continue this metaphor, let me say this, and let me say it my best drill sergeant voice: "Shut your damn mouths. Grab your god-damn entrenching tool and dig a god-damn hole."

When the new year begins, I'll post some of my thoughts on what a B2B fighting hole looks like. In the meantime, it's worth noting that some of the smarter folks in the industry are offering their suggestions on how to weather the coming dark times.
First, David Shaw says now is NOT the time to panic or overreact.
Second, Scott Karp suggests that now IS the time to go for broke in online ad sales.
Third, in an article in Folio magazine, 1105 Media's Neal Vitale says it's time to rethink staffing and accept that "you might find that you need more resources devoted to online content development."

On a related note, Folio has published its annual list of magazine predictions. And everyone and his brother has weighed in. (Full Disclosure: Folio was kind enough to ask for my predictions. In brief, I said that I expected weak revenue and a continuation of B2Bs' ethical woes. I also predict a surge in one of the key areas of my fighting-hole policy -- editorial outsourcing.)

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