Forrester: Trade press missing the boat on Internet potential

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Business publishers may have the content, but they're failing to leverage it into thriving business opportunities on the Internet.

Instead, education and lead-generation activities are driving the start-up of Web companies that aren't locked in by traditional advertising models, according to a new study by Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass.

These start-ups, with continuing education programs or searchable, robust databases, are expecting an average of $1.8 million from their Web activities this year. That compares with $300,000 a site in revenue expected by traditional business publishers, says Forrester senior analyst Jim Nail.

Traditional focus

At the same time, the business press is focused on traditional models, banners or sponsorships, Mr. Nail says, "and advertisers aren't convinced banners do much of anything."

One reason business publishers are missing the threat posed by these start-ups is it's coming in under their radar, Mr. Nail says. Much of the money going to these Web start-ups isn't coming from advertising budgets.

"Education comes from other budgets, mainly human resources and training," Mr. Nail says. "The directories are seen as lead-generation programs, so they take money from sales force support and direct mail."

Trade publishers "believe they're indispensable to the industry, and if anyone's going online, they have to come to them," he says, adding that's no longer true.

In fact, Mr. Nail's interviews with advertisers indicate publishers need to overcome their complacency.

`Don't know the language'

"Advertisers are telling me the sales reps for the trade publishers don't know online: They don't know the language, they can't tell them beyond traffic numbers where they'll get the most qualified traffic," he says. "They're selling a print package and adding some online to it."

Forrester calls training, directories and other business-related revenue streams "transactive content," meaning it blends elements of transactions, interactivity and content.

Publishers have the content, Mr. Nail says, but they're missing other opportunities. Among his suggestions: Offering sponsored seminars online, continuing tie-ins with trade shows and enhancing the online experience, and buying out the training and lead-generation companies hurt by the Web start-ups, and point their business plans to the Web.

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