I don't write this to brag. I write it because it illustrates an important lesson about how the Internet has changed the rules of content, even in the b-to-b world. For example:
It's no longer enough to just report the story. You have to understand it and define it for your Web site viewers, even if you're getting it fast. There's no longer time to read, digest, then interpret. You must do all three at once.
That's how CNET's News.com beat Ziff-Davis, International Data Group and CMP Media to become the most valuable computer news site by far.
To be successful with content, become a brand name. Even if that means getting in the way of the story. The keys to success for sites like Iconocast.com are to be loud, persistent and in front of any camera or microphone they can find.
The way to a site's success is paved with interactivity. Sites like VerticalNet.com, which went public last year, and Slashdot.org, which sold at a handsome profit to Andover.net early this year, put readers alongside writers.
Expertise comes from experience, and the editor's job is not to judge, but to moderate.
Don't bite off more than you can chew. You must be complete, even if it's within a tiny niche. Sites like Net Market Makers (www.netmarketmakers.com) are making it big by taking one beat within an industry--in its case, b-to-b Internet commerce--and covering that beat intensely.
The most successful sites become players in their industry, not just observers. law.com built itself into a legal portal by combining content with the information products lawyers buy, including precedents, cases and expertise (see case study, Page 33).
You can't be afraid of Wall Street. The small, private funding favored by magazines won't win the b-to-b battle, because content is just one part of the larger whole.
That's why the content of American Lawyer Media became part of law.com, and why it took the financial muscle of a Wasserstein Perella & Co. to make that portal come together.
All these rules are subject to change without notice. Customers are always right, and if your marketplace finds a better solution, your heritage and leadership will be no protection.
That's why the New York Stock Exchange is going public next year. All certainty is gone for everyone, and maybe for all time.
Dana Blankenhorn is a free-lance journalist who specializes in Internet issues and is publisher of the Web site www.a-clue.com.