Naples, Fla.—MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn are some well-known examples of the Internet-enabled phenomenon of social networking, which connects people who know people to other people who know additional people to form an active and incrementally growing network. B-to-b media companies are exploring ways to connect their own vertical communities online before someone else does, but, unlike venture-capital backed innovators, they have to make money doing it.
Thus, attendees’ fear of the unfamiliar mixed with excited curiosity Tuesday at the “Monetizing Social Networking Breakfast” at American Business Media’s Spring Meeting 2007.
“We see many specific, very real ways the b-to-b media can monetize vertical communities,” said Malcolm Netburn, chairman-CEO of Communications Data Services, who moderated the breakfast panel. He went on to name several: creating a deeper and more engaged relationship between your editors and salespeople and their vertical community; providing more targeted advertising; creating greater sponsorship value; lengthening and strengthening the connections created at events; and providing an incentive for audience members to share more personal information than they would in a one-way communication model.
“This is a new way of creating content,” said Jim Fowler, CEO Jigsaw Data Corp., a venture-capital-backed startup for sharing business cards online. Jigsaw has information on more than 5 million contacts input solely by its 220,000 audience members.
Tim Andrews is president-CEO of the Advertising Specialty Institute, which publishes seven b-to-b print/online titles. Since joining ASI four years ago, he replaced a DVD- and print-based catalog business with a Web site that provides pricing information, product photos and specifications for more than 750,000 individual products as well as workflow tools for resellers, who primarily are independent small businesses.
In addition to charging the resellers an annual subscription fee, ASI also charges vendors for inclusion—and makes them responsible for updating their own product data. “This is a truly great model in which we get money from both users and suppliers,” Andrews said.