Networks are the future of B2B publishing
Disclaimer: this is partly a shameless promotion for a project I’ve been working on. However, it is also a plea for journalists to get up, go beyond the blog, and create their own networks and content platforms.
I’m a former B2B journalist who covered renewable energy. Specifically, wind energy. Following a shift to content marketing, I launched a blog using Ghost called OnGreentech as a way of keeping involved in the sector. It also allowed for some research into what people were interested in beyond simple stories.
The site had moderate success picking up around 1000 Twitter followers and 3,300 on Facebook without too much effort. However, it quickly became apparent running a blog was not going to cut it against B2B sites with archives of re-written press releases. So I called a halt around April and went back to the drawing board.
Importantly, it allowed an opportunity to test whether readers were interested in interactive content or just wanted plain old words and pictures. To do this, I spent some valuable time learning D3.js and putting together some nice looking interactive graphics, like below, with the view of creating evergreen content.
Did the D3 stuff work? Kind of, but not quite. Yes, people kept coming back to them. But text based long-form content with pics usually came out on top. So when you work out the time it takes creating a graphic like the one above, the economics don’t work out.
As a result I spent a large proportion of the last six months redeveloping OnGreentech as a B2B social network, using Ruby on Rails. The fruits of this labour are in the pics below.
If you’re already interested go here.
Yet one answer came up to a question that hadn’t been asked. Users wanted a website that went beyond a print magazine in digital form. They wanted information quickly, and they wanted a way to contribute without expending too much effort.
So, that was the new aim. OnGreentech will now be a network including pages dedicated to renewable energy-related products, as well as projects and companies. People can log in comment, create news stories, post blogs and links.
OnGreentech aims to be a simplified LinkedIn for the renewable energy sector. It ties together projects, companies, and renewable energy products and allows people to associate themselves with them. Instead of viewing the stories an editorial team think is most important, users will be able to create their own front page by following products and companies.
Yes, Twitter, Reddit etc can also do that. There are other elements. It also exists as a database where user may be able to update information on a renewable energy product or project. Data generated by this will be made available under an open source licence. Additionally, users will receive ‘knowhow points’ for contributions made.
Users will be able to vote on stories in a similar way to how they do on Reddit. Thus on a news index page the most popular stories will be displayed first. But unlike Reddit, the stories will be linked to particular products, companies or projects.
There is one other key innovation. Each product — turbines at the moment — can be rated. The first products are wind turbines, but storage, solar and tidal will follow. Users will be able to anonymously rate these on criteria such as value and design. The aim is to get a view of product performance not just from the manufacturers but from the operators that actually use them on a daily basis. On average score will be shown for the turbine and an index rating will be created for each company.
Hopefully, this is just the start of it. There are plans further down the line for a more application-based approach. Not just a mobile app but also specific apps that relate to renewable energy products plus more complex interactive pages. There will is also likely to be an emphasis on connectivity between users as well as linking companies with potential customers.
I believe this sort of approach could be the future of B2B publishing. Supplying news and views, but also giving voice to a community. These days readers expect more. You can’t beat good content, but websites alone don’t take advantage of what web applications can do.
In terms of revenue, it can provide a platform for content marketing with a company having the ability to go into greater depth on their products.
At the moment this site is in testing. But if you’re interested in finding out more or having an advanced preview, click this link and add your email address and you will receive an login in advance of when it is launched.
In the newspaper age editors had no choice but to make a decision on what and where something ran in their paper. Despite the changes in media, the idea that the editor knows what every reader is interested in continues to persist.
The site is about making renewable energy accessible for everybody.
Originally published at electrocontent.com on November 21, 2016.
Please feel free to give this a like or better still, leave a comment. And if there’s any interest in how a non-programmer can put something like this together I’m happy to do a follow-up.