Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A threat from an unlikely place

I've been writing for a long time about the new competitors that traditional B2B publishers are finding on the Web.
Whether we're talking about Web-only publishers, editors who strike out on their own, sources who become publishers, or marketers who become journalists, the days in which the only competition that a typical, monthly B2B magazine faced was another monthly magazine are long gone.
And now we can add one more to the list of Web-based competitors -- newspaper beat reporters.

Take a look at Pharmalot, a Newark Star-Ledger reporter's blog about the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. Or even better, take a look at this article about Pharmalot on the Beat Blogging site, where you'll find that Pharmalot is successful "when measured by any metric -- Web traffic, content and financially," according to the blogger's boss.

The reporter behind Pharmalot is Ed Silverman, who has covered pharmaceuticals for 12 years for the local newspaper (northern New Jersey is filled with pharmaceutical firms.) The basic concept behind Pharmalot is that in the course of working his beat, Ed was already accumulating enough news to compete with any national publication in the space. So by moving to a blog platform, he was able to expand both his coverage and reach nationally.

Now Pharmalot isn't a business threat to existing B2B publishers. At least not yet. A quick look through the site indicates that the ad staff at the newspaper hasn't learned to sell high-cost ads targeting readers from the pharmaceutical industry. Rather the ads are the same low-cost run-of-site nonsense that you'll find anywhere else on a newspaper site. But it probably won't be long before someone there finds out that targeted B2B ads are worth more than branding buttons from Ford and WaMu.

More importantly, it won't be long before other newspapers realize there's potential (and some easy money) in duplicating the Pharmalot model. There are thousands of business reporters covering hundreds of beats at newspapers across the country. And odds are there's at least one who would pose a competitive threat to any B2B publication you could name.

So if you're an editor or executive at a traditional, print-based publishing company, it's time to ask yourself three questions.
1. Who are the best newspaper reporters covering the beat that my magazine/Web site covers? (If you have the budget, it may be time to hire away anyone who poses a serious threat.)
2. Are any of those newspaper reporters capable of launching a Web-based, national version of what they already do locally? (Ignore the print-based legacy reporters. But keep your eye on anyone who appears Web-savvy.)
3. How is it possible for a daily newspaper reporter to create an all-new product based on what he learns from working his beat when the staff at my monthly magazine says they're too busy to write daily stories for the Web? (It's probably well past the time to dump some staffers and move to a Web-first workflow.)

tags: , , , , , , , web-first publishing, advertising

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Paul. I think Pharmalot has a terrible title (sounds like a spam blog, doesn't it?), but the content is first-rate, and you've really nailed it on how this local newspaper reporter -- by virtue of thoroughly covering an industry that has several big concerns in his own backyard (New Jersey) -- has become an expert on something much bigger than his local area.

    It makes perfect sense to capitalize on that, for both him AND his newspaper.

    The trick will be for his newspaper to hang on to him. He's probably big enough now to go solo.