Some of the challenges and opportunities facing publishers are brought into sharp focus by our 2009 Vertical Search (B2B) Report published recently.  

The research, sponsored by vertical search specialist Convera, suggests that publishers need to incorporate more performance-based advertising into their business models because marketers are focusing so heavily on cost-per-acquisition and cost-per-lead.

As well as economic realities, it is clear from the open-ended questions in our survey that many traditional B2B publishers are still wrestling with the evolving nature of the digital world, and doing so with varying degrees of success. Their on-going challenges include:

-) Identification of online revenue streams
-) Corporate inertia and lack of education about digital marketing
-) Difficulties getting to grips with search engine marketing and web analytics

In the words of one business publisher: “Print magazines can carry more pages without requiring any ROI proof, the web reverses that and makes life tricky. It’s the same old problem, compounded by the fact that people use print and online in completely different ways.”

One trend which publishers should grasp as an opportunity is the increased uptake of widgets. Internet marketing professionals are more likely than last year to be using widgets (either desktop or in-browser) that provide customised internet marketing and business information (now 47% of internet marketing professionals compared to 35% a year ago).

Our survey respondents are more internet savvy than the average information worker in, say, the medical or financial services worlds but the use of such widgets is becoming more prevalent as their usefulness increases.

For publishers, widgets can mean more off-site exposure and integration into workflows. Those seeking ideas should check out

While the challenges for publishers are on-going, one quick win is to use site search data to feed into editorial and marketing strategy. The research found that only a third of publishers (36%) say they “derive strategic value” from search log analytics.

The report also covers the following areas which are relevant for both publishers and advertisers.

Mobile (cell-phone) Search – Use of mobile search and mobile widgets for business purposes is increasing but the experience is generally not great. 

Business networks – 61% of internet professionals access work-related online networks (such as LinkedIn) at least once a week.

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) - This model is being widely used by companies both for on-site search and for a range of other functions. More than half of survey respondents report that their businesses are using SaaS for email (77%), web hosting (74%), sales and marketing (62%), CMS (59%), file and assets storage (57%), site search (57%) and ad serving (51%).

SaaS is increasing in popularity across a range of business areas because it can help organisations become more nimble and less shackled by internal infrastructure and IT constraints.  

If you want more detail, then read the full Vertical Search (B2B) Report.

And, yes, Econsultancy is working on its own widgets and iPhone app …