"Peoples' attention is dispersed, and there's no way b-to-b companies can rely solely on their magazines and Web sites, essentially their magazines online, to get a large enough share of day, which is people's time and attention," Richards said.
For b-to-b publishers, Richards said, the solution to gaining more share of day may be something of a sleeper: work flow applications. "Every industry has an online area where people spend time on applications that are part of doing their job," he said. "[B-to-b publishers] need to find the application" for their particular market.
Richard pointed to Hearst Business Media's integration of a collision-repair claim-processing application for insurance adjusters. He also noted efforts by Reed Construction Data and McGraw-Hill Construction to serve contractors, subcontractors, architects and building supply manufacturers with work flow applications in which their data are integrated.
Richards suggested that b-to-b publishers look to acquisitions to add such work flow applications.
"These are not blockbuster deals," he said, "but more strategic purchases that can help publishers bring online savvy into their organization. It's hard to home-grow that talent."