I saw a statistic the other day in the February edition of the splendid The Charleston Report (http://charlestonco.com/), which started me thinking , and I didn’t stop until I reached a recent note on business directories from  InfoCommerce , and then read Chuck Richard’s note for Outsell on competition in B2B markets(https://clients.outsellinc.com/insights/index.php?p=11120) . As a result of all this I took action on my thinking and I am now pondering the results . If I am right , then a huge chunk of the business information market is at risk , so lets pray I am wrong , which would be less unusual and more entertaining for my kind readers .

In the first instance TCR quoted the NY Times to the effect that between ages 8 and 18 , US students spend 7.5 hours in front of a screen every day ( smartphone , TV ,computer etc ) plus 90 minutes texting and 30 minutes talking on their cellphones . What struck me first of all was how quickly voice contact was falling away , and text moving down beside it . If you want someone you increasingly get to them via Facebook , it seems to me .  And then I thought that I am increasingly using LinkedIn as my directory , and finding the person I want to speak to there – and even sometimes look at the company profiles .

So I followed the Infocommerce advice when they published a recent piece on this (http://www.infocommercegroup.com/blogs/index.htm). I went to Microsoft and downloaded Contacts for Outlook , and I downloaded the LinkedIn connector that links to this . As a result , when I set out a moment ago to write to my old associate and friend Joachim Bartels on a subject close to our hearts  ( the Business Information Industry Association of Asia Pacific ) , I found the Linked In content linked into Outlook , together with a note of everything I have written to Joachim in recent times , and all the things that he has sent me ( plus a photo of the man himself , all energy  and vinegar , and ready to leap from the screen to chastise me for not responding more quickly ).

This could well be the beginning of a new wave of innovation . If we get used to storing our “personal” directories in one place , and then affiliating to them massive searchable environments  of other names who we could add to that directory , and then adding their companies and their web references , then we are surely building primary directories of the sort we once went to Experian or D&B or Acxiom for , so this trend must surely compel business information data suppliers to move up the value chain and link themselves to these contextual channels . Indeed , for a ZoomInfo type of player that may be the only way to find a route to Market .  And then I saw Chuck reminding us that in fact this whole field is alive with start-ups , and challenges to conventional business directory players , so I then saw that my sense of established players being challenged by the social media interface was even greater than I thought .

But why is it a challenge ? Well , I am just a US college kid at heart , and my screen pattern is not unlike theirs . So save me a few minutes when finding a contact or searching for an email address , or automatically update me when things change , or give me the collateral content when I am framing a request or writing a reply , and I will bless you for the productivity gain. And this gain is taking place inside my personal workflow , and is very well suited to my mobile content requirements .

I will also be able to do more things on one password and I will be happy to allow LinkedIn to become an effective overlay to my screen-based world if it will do these things intelligently . I only need one LinkedIn and cannot manage a multiplicity of social sites , so I have always rejected invitations to join others , business or social . But if it lets me down then I am glad to know there is a choice  .

Footnote : Business directories will never be the same again . Actually , nothing is the same again , yet certain things go on regardless . Spamming is one . The same edition of TCR told me that  ” according to a 2008 study by researchers at the University of California , Berkeley , and UC, San Diego , spammers get a response just once for every 12.5 million emails they send – a response rate of 0.000008% .” Goodness , thats lower than a classified on a Murdoch website – and spammers still make profits , or they would stop .

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