Content sites see future in business

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Business-to-business content should find its way very nicely into the 21st century.

Dennis Abrahams, president of Harris InfoSource, Twinsburg, Ohio, is sure of it.

Harris has profiled U.S. manufacturing plants since 1972--the company was founded as Harris Publishing Corp.--describing the plants, listing officers and explaining capabilities. The Internet provides a world of new opportunities for content, Mr. Abrahams said.

"The advantage of the online product is not only is it updated routinely, but it's extremely function rich," he said.

Harris InfoSource aims to do for salespeople what Thomas Register does for buyers: offer content that can be turned into new business.

Harris has a database of about 400,000 plants, with names, addresses, details on plants' sizes, toll-free and fax numbers, and explanations of the plants' capabilities. "This allows sales folks to target their best opportunities," said Mr. Abrahams.

Thanks to the Internet, the database can be sold in additional ways. Where Harris' books are sold as products and CD-ROMs are updated by subscription, the Internet lets Harris sell unlimited access to its database, by subscription and per use.

Other sites with content are revising for the future. American IC Exchange this month is launching the third version of its site.

"The primary focus will be to transact business," said Lori LeRoy, director of marketing for the Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based business exchange. "Secondary to that is to provide good will and information on the market."

Visitors to the public site will still be able to get Bloomberg news about the industry, commentary on market conditions from American IC Exchange traders and other news services. But the advertising sold there will aim only to make up the costs of the content, and to introduce advertisers to the marketplace American IC Exchange is building.

Data supply and demand

Success of content sites will depend on in-depth knowledge of the industry being served, that industry's information needs and the way in which participants are willing to pay for information.

Every b-to-b content site must answer the questions Mr. Abrahams says he faces every day: What's the value of your data? Who is the customer for the data? What's the best way to profit from that data?

The structure and type of information will change, but in all cases, "the content is a decision support tool," said Mike Shultz, president of QuestLink Technology, San Jose, Calif., which uses data on semiconductors to be a virtual reseller of those products.

David Centner, president of MaterialNet, Great Neck, N.Y., a raw-materials exchange set to debut Nov. 1, said that in the early days of his site, content such as news should draw industry participants to post and peruse exchange listings. But the "strategy is transactions. Come on by and do some business," he said.

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