“What do you have that I can’t go after easily?” That’s the question Dan Bigman, Forbes.com managing editor, has been challenging b-to-b editors and publishers with recently. In January, he sounded some alarms at an editorial reception hosted by American Business Media, saying that he could easily hire “one of your editors” to replicate trade-style coverage. What’s not so easy to replicate: data.

“A magazine does not exist to drive traffic to the Web. People find Web sites from other Web sites,” says Bigman. “You can supplement what’s in a print story with in-depth data on the Web, but you don’t want to direct someone reading a magazine on the couch to ‘read this story again’ with electricity.”

Bigman offers thoughts about the challenges b-to-b publications will have to deal with as more and more consumer and business hybrids such as Forbes drill down their verticals:

• Allow your readers to get involved. Google’s open-source Google Maps has “unveiled the creativity of millions of people.” The trick is to surrender to that idea. “The difficulty for a lot of editors is handing over the control.”

• Create community. “Facebook.com and Myspace didn’t invent online communities. Magazines were always in the business of bringing readers and advertisers together at events,” says Bigman. Foster community online, and monetize it. “Users want transparency, and the ability to find anything anywhere.” They go online with a purpose, and will persist until they find what they are looking for. And when they do find your site, give them depth of content.

• Nothing holds anymore—even the cover stories you’ve been keeping under wraps. If you find out a competitor’s print story will come out earlier than yours, scoop them by getting yours online. Stories presented online do not require the background uncovered by previous news. “You don’t need a new top; all you need is the top” and a link to the previous information.

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