Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Buying a blog. Validating a concept

There's news this week about a very interesting little deal in the B2B world.
Canon Communications has purchased Pharmalot, the extraordinary little blog that has proven an inspiration to numerous standalone journalists. Ed Silverman, founder of Pharmalot, will join Canon as editor at large in the Pharmaceutical Media Group and will continue as Pharmalot’s editor. He's also being asked to "spearhead further development of Canon’s digital assets, including webcasts and podcasts" and contribute to Canon's existing brands in the pharma space.
Details about the purchase can be found here.

Most people familiar with pharma, blogging, journalism or some combination thereof will applaud this deal. It's a nice fit. It unites one of the smartest writers in the space with one of the smartest companies in the industry. Canon gets both a property and a personality (making the deal something more than what my friend Rex calls an "acqhire"), while Silverman gets money, support and validation for his years of work.

But my love of this deal -- and I do love it -- is based in something more personal.
Regular readers of this blog know I first wrote about Pharmalot two years ago when Silverman and the blog were still tied to the Newark Star-Ledger.
In that post I suggested that Pharmalot offered newspaper publishers a model for expanding into a more lucrative area by competing head-to-head with B2B publishers.
But anyone who has witnessed the ceaselessly poor decisions that have come out of the newspaper industry in recent years will not be surprised to find that the Star-Ledger, rather than backing Silverman, wound up cutting him and the blog loose.
And no newspaper that I am aware of has since attempted to duplicate the model.

But what regular readers of this blog don't know -- because I haven't written about it before -- is that several months after Silverman went out on his own, I tried to convince a client of mine to hire him and buy Pharmalot.
That client had asked me for help in moving into the healthcare-data space. But my suggestion that they move slowly and start by buying Pharmalot, led to some bad blood. The client thought my plan was neither big nor bold enough. I, on the other hand, didn't think the client had the skills or resources to tackle something larger.
In the end, the client and I parted ways.
And Pharmalot continued on as a standalone product.

But life is a circle. Things have a way of resolving themselves. And over time I've learned that my initial reactions to a situation are often proven right ... over time.
As of today that former client has yet to find a way to get into the healthcare space. But now Silverman and Pharmalot are exactly where they should be: helping drive the digital efforts of a B2B publisher.
And the only thing that could make me happier is if I could come up with a convincing argument about why someone should pay me a commission on the deal.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I want my, I want my, I want my B2B TV

I'm always on the lookout for interesting products and new developments in B2B editorial. And as regular readers of this blog know, I've found the pickings pretty slim of late.
But the news today about Reuters Insider reminded me that I did come across something awhile back that I found encouraging.

First, the background:
For anyone who hasn't seen the announcement, Thomson Reuters said today it was adding a video service to its subscription-based desktop products. The new service, dubbed Reuters Insider, offers business-news programming across industry verticals. Rather than try to compete on broad business news with the likes of CNBC, the new Reuters Insider is more like a slew of B2B niche TV newscasts.
Reuters Insider is set up to allow outside contributors to post videos to the service. Some fast-moving companies have already signed up, including Beet.TV.

So what does this mean for the average B2B publisher and editor?
More than you might think.

Consider, if you will, the typical B2B company's experience with video. I think we can all safely agree that much of the video produced by B2B brands in recent years has been poor. Some has been downright abysmal.
In fact, if the recent ASBPE/Northwestern University poll of B2B editors showed nothing else, it showed that our industry is not at the fore of visual journalism (more than half of B2B editors surveyed had never done any online audio/video work ... probably because editors in the survey ranked "recording, shooting, or editing audio and/or video" as the second-least important skill for achieving success in their jobs ... trailing only "mining online databases.")

B2B editors' lack of experience and interest in video -- as well as a shortage of talent (what video-savvy journalist would consider working at a B2B publisher?) and training (the median amount of training that a B2B editor received in 2009 was less than a half-day, according to the ASBPE survey) -- leaves the typical B2B brand with just a few options.
They are:
1. "Encourage" video skills. Through a combination of compensation changes, rewording of job descriptions, etc., it's possible to force editors to develop an interest in video.
Of course, being forced to learn video doesn't mean that you're forced to do it well. Which brings us to ...
2. Invest in training. But if there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's this: there ain't much money in B2B these days for training. Besides, if you could get the folks who offer newsroom training to be honest about results, you'd find that turning talented writers into talented video journalists remains a largely impossible task. Which brings us to ...
3. Look elsewhere. Whether it's focusing your recruiting efforts on one or two of the best multimedia-journalism schools or contracting with an outside provider, it seems that B2B publishers are most likely to get good video by heading outside their own newsrooms.

Which brings me to a little company called WorkerBeeTV.
First, for the suspicious among you, let me assure you that I have no business relationship with WorkerBee. I just like the company. One of my clients uses their services. And I've found those services to be pretty impressive.
Take a look at WorkerBee's site here.
Or, even better, check out some of their newscasts. Here's one in the fruit and vegetable industry. Here's one in the hairdressing industry.
What you'll see is that WorkerBee has created a simple, branded product that can let even the smallest B2B publisher move into video production.
It's really pretty simple. Existing staffers work with WorkerBee's team to rewrite news stories into news scripts. WorkerBee does everything else -- shooting, editing, producing, etc. WorkerBee staffers act as the hosts of the shows. If a B2B brand already has video (either news footage from in-house editorial or "B-roll" from advertisers), it can be added to the show. If not, no problem.

If you're still struggling to get quality video on your brand's site, you could do much worse than to contact WorkerBee.
The video product you get may not be of the same quality as Reuters Insider ... but that's the price you pay for not working at a company with thousands of Nokia-toting, 'mojo" reporters scattered around the globe.