Back in Black (We Hope)

As loyal Spend Matters readers know, I spent the past five weeks away on a mini-sabbatical (I now can't wait for a full one someday). On both Spend Matters and Spend Matters PRO, Thomas Kase, Sheena Moore, William Busch, Peter Smith, and roughly half a dozen or so guest contributors did an outstanding job of keeping the content current when I was gone.

Upon returning -- and checking in by reading the site during my absence -- it was a real accomplishment to see that Spend Matters could not only survive in my absence, but also thrive. Eight years on, I feel this site has finally achieved a voice that far transcends my own, with a range of expert contributors with their own voice, style and expertise. We'll be continuing to add to this mix of voices and look forward to welcoming additional contributors and team members.

The time away really allowed for some personal and business reflection. It's good to be home, though. While I was taking time off from the daily grind of Spend Matters, I could not fully pull away from synthesizing my ideas and writing, including trying to figure out what this site -- and associated sites and research, advisory and related sites/services -- should be "when they grow up."

Part of this involved taking an inventory of our assets, and what our readers are asking for. Without question, the premium content on Spend Matters PRO has been off to a rocking start, already disrupting the industry analyst and research world in procurement from a publishing standpoint.

This will remain a key focus for us, especially as we begin the formal marketing launch of PRO this fall (we've even signed up for a CRM system -- which for us is a big deal, given how scattered we've been in the past). But I continue to believe our core competency is on the media/publishing side of things rather than migrating to an industry analyst model.

In contrast to what my scotch-buddy Phil Fersht is up to with HfS Research, the leading BPO research/analyst firm, we're definitely continue to further more of an analyst-informed social media/publishing approach rather than a social media/publishing informed industry analyst model. The nuance here, I believe, is important.

Going forward, it's my personal belief -- heck, I could be wrong -- that people want a lot of detailed information, content and insight to make their own decisions around procurement technologies, strategies, processes and general investments rather than being spoon-fed opinions in short analyses and summary recommendation/ranking publications (or being told similar things on inquiry calls on what is usually quite a superficial, if not opinionated level). Throughout my sabbatical, I tried to confront this perspective and to shoot it down by coming up with alternatives. But I couldn't succeed, despite multiple attempts.

I came away believing that we're on the right track, sticking to our guns with both a free site (Spend Matters) and a premium content site (Spend Matters PRO), emphasizing the publishing of hopefully great quantities of useful stuff. Rather than shift this model, I concluded, our next foot forward will need to emphasize making this mass of data all that much easier to consume.

This will include a complete -- and I mean a complete -- redesign of Spend Matters in Q4 of this year. What you see by January will be completely different and more usable. Going back to reading Spend Matters on daily basis in the past week after some time away in between scans has reminded me just how bad our site is.

Articles disappear into the void after 36 hours. Our search feature is horrendous (we often use Google ourselves). And the entire site has outgrown its organizational design. Indeed, it's a chore reading Spend Matters these days and the only reason we continue to be the largest media site in the sector is testament to the voices of the team -- nothing more. Our design and usability must change. And it will.

The sabbatical also provided the time to reflect on some other ideas for making the Spend Matters reader experience for our entire audience -- practitioners, consultants, vendors, journalists, researchers, analysts, academics, etc. -- that much more valuable and efficient. But I'll save these for the actual re-launch of our main site later this year.

Stay tuned. Eight years on, we've accomplished quite a bit. But what we have in store for the next few will hopefully serve as multiplier on what we've done so far.

- Jason Busch

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