Trust us: what the focus of Business to Business might teach all publishers

By: Rob Corbidge, 27 October 2022

App icon of a magnifying glass,

Business to Business publishing is thriving, because people have never stopped being willing to pay for the information they really need. But knowing what they really need is the name of the game!

It could be thought that business to business publishers and business to consumer publishers exist in more robust silos than is actually the case. On the strength of last week's Di5rupt's Mx3  Berlin meet-up, B2B publishing can see parts of the publishing world with greater clarity than its louder sibling.

Some of the differences between the two are obvious. The claim business to business publishing has on audience attention is magnitudes stronger. Specialist information is being passed to those who need it and are paying for it. The peddler of false and/or unworthy information won't last long in any given sector of expertise, be it industrial food processors or opal mining. The quality, clarity and value of the content are assessed by experts every time the publish button is pressed.

The weight of quality and accuracy in the B2B world is carried by its journalists and content producers. A sector specialist with years of contacts and knowledge in a particular area is quite some editorial asset, and even an audience draw in their own right. (Rest in Peace Fordyce Maxwell )

The honorific of "Industry Bible" applied to a publication is not one that is easily earned, and anyone who works in publishing can name some of them.

Where B2B has an obvious advantage over B2C is the extent of the knowledge the publisher generally has of their customer and what concerns them, from data actually provided to them by the customer. 

The most successful of B2B publishers parley that data into a relationship with genuine commercial value for all. The comfortable formality of the relationship between one business and another removes the barriers one sees when asking for data in the consumer sector, or the permissions we ourselves give or don't give, to platforms. It's not an easy barrier for B2C to jump.

Yet some specialist B2C publishers understand that the very fact you're looking at the specialist content probably means you know something about the subject, and if you are provided with the right kind of high quality information and/or entertainment, then you can come to regard that as the kind of relationship you feel comfortable using affiliate links within, for example.

Nurturing that relationship takes time of course, but it is in most ways similar to the old subscriber magazine model. A model some businesses stick to with actual magazines and enjoy success.

It's that kind of depth of relationship that made most of the attendees at Mx3 Berlin less than violently concerned about the end of Third Party Cookies for example.

To quote the plainspoken Neil Thackray, co-founder of Agribriefing and serial B2B publishing entrepreneur, "The value creation generated by specialist media is not built on audience size or vacuous measures of engagement or social media; it is grounded on the presentation of data and information that removes friction from business decision-making."

Or as Professor Lucy Kueng explained, "The basic model is to find a subject area that really matters to a community, produce high-value content for that community that reflects and anticipates their needs, and get consistently closer to that community through a range of content formats. Use learning from those interactions to further enhance the value of your offer, then your value increases, as does the audience’s loyalty."

The central takeaway for me from Mx3 Berlin has been exactly that: the value of brand loyalty, and how brands need to fulfill their part of the relationship.

Business to consumer publisher is still going through some choppy waters. The market distortions caused by Big Tech are still prevalent, yet Big Tech businesses themselves are suffering from a lack of brand trust themselves. Big Tech can only address the consumer through a one way megaphone, publishers must use their more personal voice.