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Feb 03, 2004
How To

Sell Online Content to the Dramatically Changing $46.5 Billion US Corporate Market

SUMMARY: Corporate America spends roughly $46.5 billion per year on business information services, including subscriptions, training material, research reports, and books. The good news is, corporate content buyers are highly interested in online content - in fact they're beginning to distain print because it can't be shared with the global enterprise. BUT, the exact title of the person buying content is changing dramatically as classic libraries are being phased out... Who's the right person, and how can you sell them? Find out in this useful article:
Corporate America is "literally closing libraries", according to Lead Content Deployment Analyst Mary Corcoran of Outsell Inc.

"Your sales rep used to be able to call up and ask to speak to the person who runs the library. It's a lot tougher now. You don't have a receptionist anymore, and there's no physical place your call can be sent to. They've thrown away the librarian title."

If print libraries are closing, where's the corporate subscription and research data budget going to? And, who should business publishers be pitching for site license and group subscription sales if it's not the corporate librarian?

Corcoran spends her time talking with content buyers for mid-large companies across the US, so we asked her for input:

-> Average spend remains at almost $1 million, but spender's title is morphing

According to Outsell's data, in 2000 individuals in corporate America purchased $11 billion in content (subscriptions, books, research reports) plus departments such as the library, marketing, and R&D purchased $35.5 billion for a total business marketplace of $46.5 billion.

Corcoran doesn't think that total has changed substantially overall (she'll have more data later in the year), *but* she's definitely sure the pattern of spending has shifted dramatically away from the individual and more toward the department. "I don't think we're seeing more or new dollars, but dollars shifting."

For example, a 1998 study showed 60% of sales professionals and 70% marketing pros purchased content, by 2001 that number had downshifted dramatically to just 43% of sales and 56% of marketing.

Instead of corporate libraries and individual executives, purchases are now being made by a new power in content purchasing -- people Corcoran calls portal managers.

They don't have a uniform title you can ask for, nor are they in a uniform department, or attend uniform trade shows (although we've posted links to a few useful places to find them below.)

They may be in competitive intelligence, training, intranet management, and even knowledge management (a title that was hot, cooled way off, and is re-heating again.) Some are former librarians, some are webmasters, some are CIOs, some are VP marketing, you name it.

They're not generally in R&D though (except in pharmaceuticals) "That's shrinking, relying on R&D content buyers is not sustainable in the long term."

On average they spend $2.5 million on content and related technology, systems and services per year for their department or company as a whole. 36% of the spend - almost one million - is for content.

-> Content topics departmental buyers want most

Highly granular information on competitors and products is the most popular buy.

-> Content formats that are "hottest" among corporate buyers

Hard copy is out, and company-wide site licenses to electronic content are in. "Physical content doesn't cut it anymore. Buyers want to do business with vendors willing to go with a global licensing model." In fact, many buyers are fed up with old-line publishers who require a print purchase bundled with electronic, or who don't already have their archives in a searchable format online.

This means the pendulum is at long last swinging in at least equal favor for online-only publishers. Even as little as two years ago buyers were a bit snooty, assuming content published originally in print had a legitimacy that online-only publishers lacked. That assumption's finally gone out the window.

Instead, the main prejudice may be against buying content that's partially ad-supported. "It's sullied by vendors. There's a big credibility gap." If you do accept ads, Corcoran advises you clearly post editorial church-and-state policies on your site and content sales materials (and then stick to them.)

According to Corcoran only about 10% of companies have the internal resources to integrate your content stream into their intranet in a significant way. That number will grow over time. In the meantime, you can offer a hotlink and possibly and RSS-feed for their intranet.

DRM (digital rights management) can be based on IP address or passwords -- the easier the better though. Content buyers are interested in getting to information quickly without hurdles. This is not a time to get all uptight about DRM and risk losing their attention entirely.

"The folks who manage the seats are really good about digital rights. A lot of their focus is on training internally about reuse restrictions." Take time to work with them instead of being immediately or overly suspicious.

-> Tips on selling site licenses

Even small niche publishers can sell site licenses to bigger companies, if those companies are in the niche you service. If you're small but offer general-business news, it may be harder to be heard because then you're competing with all the general aggregators from Factiva to Gale Research.

"Your content has to be highly relevant to their users, if it's not they only want to deal through a Factiva and not talk to you."

Aside from your industry niche, Corcoran suggests you target the sales departments of business-to-business companies that sell into your niche (especially IT.) "They're getting realigned to sell solutions into verticals instead of by product lines, which means they need to learn that vertical industry."

Publishers frequently worry that if they tell a centralized person how many buyers in their organization already individually purchase from them, the central person will try to beat down the price - using the "groups should get lower prices" argument.

Corcoran says this isn't something to fear as much from the new buyers. Their mandate is to get useful content out to as many people in the company as possible. They're aware that perhaps only 30% of the people who could benefit from your content actually see it now. So they may ask you if they can spend the same money (or even a bit more) but add many more seats - make the content available globally.

Short-term you're not losing revenues (aside from potential new individual subs in that universe) and in exchange you may be making a substantial long term gain, as more users get addicted to your value, and are impressed by your brand.

Be prepared to offer good terms for a high number of seats, and consider adding in marketing support such as a company-specific email newsletter that can help your department purchaser promote your content throughout the organization. They may be grateful, and it deepens the relationship, making next year's renewal a little easier.

One last note, Corcoran says, "Be easy to do business with. In our company the answer is 'yes.' You don't want to start a conversation with 'No, we don't do business this way.'"

Seven links & conferences related to this article:

Outsell Inc

Braintrust International Conference - Feb 8-11 in Scottsdale AZ

DCI's Portals Collaboration & Content Management Conference - (March 16-18 in SF)

Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals
(Conference March 22-25 in Boston)

Special Libraries Association
(Conference June 4-9 in Toronto)

KM World

eContent Magazine
See Also:

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