We're in a strange position in B2B journalism in 2008.
As the Web has grown, altering forever the business and art of publishing, B2B has sometimes taken the lead.
We are far ahead of our peers in the newspaper, TV and consumer magazine world in some areas. Other times we languish far behind.
In two areas in particular, B2B has shown the way to the future:
1. No other area of journalism does a better job of producing (and selling) data on the Web.
2. No other area of journalism is doing a better job of moving to Web-only -- eliminating inefficient print pubs to cut costs while preserving brands online.
But it would be misleading to suggest that all of B2B has taken to the Web faster than the rest of journalism. We have publications (and entire companies) that trail the overall journalism industry. And these slower moving publications are filled with publishers, editors and salespeople who cannot or will not see that the fundamentals of the business model have changed. These folks are often hardworking, bright and ambitious, but they nonetheless remain delusional about the level of change that is needed.
You can tell them that adding some online bells and whistles isn't enough. You can tell them that offering a digital edition isn't enough. You can tell them that running a newsroom on a print-publishing schedule, while claiming you "get" the Web isn't enough. You can tell them that selling banner ads and buttons isn't enough when new online-only competitors offer advanced metrics, behavioral tracking and lead-gen campaigns.
But they will look at you blankly and say "our readers aren't there yet" or "we don't have the budget" or "we need more training" or one of a thousand other excuses.
I think about the laggards in B2B journalism whenever I read about the extraordinary problems facing the U.S. newspaper industry. I think it's safe to say that daily newspapers have done a worse job than any other media sector in adjusting to the changes of the past few years.
And while every mistake that daily newspapers made has also been made by B2B publications, I would be hard-pressed to name a B2B company that has made as many mistakes as the average daily newspaper.
There's a wonderful piece online today that I would urge everyone in B2B to read. It's by William Lobdell, who left the Los Angeles Times last week after 18 years with the company. Lobdell has published a piece called "42 Things I Know" in which he outlines the mistakes made by the Times.
The Times is the poster boy for how not to adjust to the Web. It seems less likely every day that the thing can even survive. And there are lessons to be learned in studying what went wrong.
Take a look at Lobdell's piece (tip of the hat to Ryan for pointing me to Lobdell with his tweet of this morning.) Then ask yourself some hard questions about your publication, your company and your career. And if you're with a print-first, or -- God forbid -- a print-only B2B publication, ask yourself, as Lobdell did, if it has "become riskier to stay than to go."
tags: journalism, b2b, media, trade press, magazines, newsletters, business media, web-first publishing, advertising