I am getting into serious trouble.  Previously kindly critics of this blog are ganging up on me. “Why all this Death, Doom and Disaster?” writes one.  “Are there no positive trends in your dystopic vision?” says another, “try hitting the keyboard after opening a bottle of wine”.  And again, “You are running out of traditional media to write obituary notices on, so why not write about some successes, not the trend to media failure?”

Ok , guilty as charged.  I have become too used to having to shock traditional media owners into action through prophecies of instant decline.  And I do claim to be an individual of sunny and optimistic disposition.  So I am going to write about a 1996 start-up which now has a commanding market position in its sector. It announced its global registered users for the end of 2009 in a statement this week, and though it is a success story well worth telling, for traditional media players in engineering, manufacturing and the science and technology segments attached to them, it is a filter placed between themselves and their users which few can now avoid or supplant.

The company is GlobalSpec.  Here a now hugely experienced team under Jeff Killeen have slowly but surely created a category leader through the simple device of treating engineers as a community, and encouraging them to do so around the data content of the sector.  Put all the product catalogues and listings with the product specifications in one place (25,000 catalogues, with 2.2 million products and 184 million searchable product specs).  Make them parametrically searchable, and you have a result that slots into engineering workflow as a must have component. Then add a vertical search engine alongside this, where all sources of engineering information available on the web can be categorized and found, where the design specifications of working engineers can be sourced, and where third party content as well as freely available public content can be obtained ( if you own an engineering journal, you face the agony of being here – or of not being seen).  Then add over 60 emailed engineering sector newsletters, all pushing industry news and announcements to self-qualified audiences.  And from this year, add eEvents, meetings, conference and exhibitions) .

So they have got a tiny segment well sewn up?  You could say that.  This week’s announcement about this “tiny segment” indicates that their registered user count rose during 2009, recession notwithstanding, by some 900,000 engineers. They now have 5.6 million registered users. In that same year of slowdown and industrial decline globally, registered readership of  the e-newsletters went up 21% , to an astounding total of 9.1 million.  And still new users are coming on board: the company indicates an accretion rate of 80,000 new users a month.

So something fairly significent is happening in places like this.  This is not about whether people will read their engineering newspaper on their laptop or their iPad, or whether there is still a place for long-form narrative in engineering texts, reference books or white papers.  It is about solutions to information handling that increase productivity, improve decision making and ensure better and less costly compliance with the regulation that bedevils the sector.  It is about the nature of the network: a community identifying itself, and communicating with and between itself.  GlobalSpec is the result of the painstaking work of people who now understand exactly how engineers work on their desktops within their enterprise systems.

So the engineers have congregated at Globalspec: how do you make money out of them?  With their willing co-operation you create sales and marketing services that suppliers in this marketplace will pay for.  Real-time sales leads from the database which give those suppliers who put their content in lead generation which is filtered, measured and immediately contactable.  Do not contaminate this with the word Advertising, but it is paid for from the same budget.  The newsletters, now moving down into highly fragmented sub-sectors of product and service types in the industry (and providing more inventory as they subdivide), also give more traditional promotional opportunities, as do the e-events.  Ask yourself: as a seller, do you go to the traditional engineering newsheet classifieds page to place your product in the community eye – or do you come here?

And this is truly Global.  If you want to speak to engineers in Shanghai instead of Scunthorpe or Spokane, then come here. The questions about it are many: How many GlobalSpecs can a sector sustain?  What happens to traditional media players who now supply their customers through this interface?  Do “old media” buy these success stories and could they run them if they did?  The fact is however that a new world order has arrived, and we all need to recognise it.  A colleague said recently “You never write about vertical search anymore – did it fail?”  No.  I don’t need to write about it anymore , because it has succeeded.

Footnote : Warburg Pincus, and Mark Colodny, the Managing Director who has been responsible for Globalspec, deserve recognition for patient and consistent support through the growth period.  As a result they now have a property of high value.  The exit is the real test!


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1 Comment so far

  1. uberVU - social comments on February 13, 2010 14:36

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by dworlock: The unsung heroes of the digital media revolution are in B2B : embedded and working with really large populations http://bit.ly/bQrcz8