New Ideas for Directories: How B-to-B Publishers Are Moving beyond the "13Th Issue"

Article excerpt

B-TO-B PUBLISHERS HAVE LONG RELIED on directories (or buyer's guides, depending on company terminology) to produce revenue and establish themselves as a valuable resource to their readers. However, b-to-b publishers have seen this resource waver over the years, as print is challenged (and often succeeded) by digital.

Still, several b-to-b publishers are choosing to maintain their directories, often converting to digital, but still producing a print version as a supplement. Some companies are moving so far away from the traditional directory and buyer's guide model that they are searching for a new phrase to describe the resource.

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Repackaging Directories

Several digital publishing solutions companies such as Go Forward Media and Dirxion offer social media and other interactive tools for directories.

Go Forward has created an annual sponsorship package called Product Connect that includes packaging and promoting the companies in their clients' social media outlets, which, in total, are followed by "a couple of hundred thousand fans."

For a price tag of $400 to $900 monthly, companies are also included in Go Forward's bi-monthly e-mail product bulletin, and can opt-in to be part of an annual print buyer's guide.

Dirxion often replicates the "yellow pages" look and feel of traditional print directories, while adding the capabilities of a digital directory. This includes adding links directly to companies and email addresses, adding video and Flash animation, as well as features like mapping and virtual sticky notes.

Using a Google Maps API key, Dirxion creates a branded window that provides a location map for featured businesses. The sticky note feature allows users to mark frequently referenced companies within the directory. Dirxion also incorporates a sharing tool into every digital edition they produce, allowing users to share company and product information via Twitter and Facebook.

The Push into Content

One of the biggest draws of the digital directory is the ability to bring the user from directory to content, or vice versa.

Eric Kammerzelt, vice president of technology at Cygnus, said that Cygnus' 27 Buyer's Guides "contribute upward of 50 percent [of traffic] to our medium and small [Web sites], and as much as 70 percent for a couple of them."

Penton's Electronics Group publishes 10 domestic, geographically-based directories. Eighty percent of the audience uses both print and online, and 100 percent of users reference the digital Source ESB, according to group publisher Bill Baumann. The print exists as a yellow pages of sorts for users; the digital Source ESB offers a real time inventory of available parts. …