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.

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. “We’re looking for the integration of that content, so you read that article about a specific part, it with then push you to the availability of parts on Source ESB,” says Baumann. “What we’re providing is a part number search. For a specific part number, who actually has in inventory now, in what quantity, at what price. It really drills down into the buying process.”

Penton said Source ESB online revenue will more than double from 26 percent of the product’s total revenue in 2008 to 53 percent in 2011.

Bridging Event to Directory Listing Sale

McGraw Hill’s Aviation Week found that dividing their now-defunct World Aviation directory by company listing from product and service listing has served their directory business well.

The group created Aviation Intelligence Network, a paid online subscription model. “If you want robust information on companies, financial details, the aircrafts they fly, you pay for it,” says Anne McMahon, group director of information marketing services. “We took company data and attached a whole lot more to make it more valuable. That is now behind our paywall.”

They then created MRO Links, a site that focuses on product and service information. MRO Links also has a small section at the back of print issues of Aviation Weekly’s publications that includes product and service information. MRO Links has proved especially useful for vendors at Aviation Week events, who need to drive exposure post-show. Last year, Aviation Week rolled out their enhanced exhibitor package to create lead generation for their vendors. Vendors can buy a space at the show, or can choose the package, which includes premium location on the show floor, online profile, connection to a lead generation tool and 1/6th product/service ad in MRO Links.

Vendors are also offered the option to increase ad sizes and feature video in Aviation Week’s own video channel and in the company’s profile.

Revenue Gainers

And these directory efforts have not gone without reward.

For Aviation Week, 50 percent of the exhibitors at the U.S. MRO event last year bought enhanced packages, which panned out to 280 exhibitors in total.

McMahon said, “We’re going to become the marketing services place for our suppliers, who are saying, ‘All I really want in this story is leads’.”

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