G2 and the Rise of Tech Platforms

B2B platforms never got a lot of love from tech PR. Agencies don't track them because they don't revolve around "targets." Clients tend to discount them because their content carries little prestige. Meanwhile, B2B readers are voting with their feet. Take Computerworld. Twenty years ago the site attracted 7.5 million visitors a month. Today it's less than half that, and that's in spite of all the advances in SEO.

Readers still value news and analysis from journalists, of course, but they're increasingly OK with what peers have to say. That's why we shine the spotlight this week on G2, a company founded only six years ago, yet attracts an audience bigger than you'd ever imagine.

Take a look at this table, showing unique visitors per month measured by SimilarWeb:

 G2    3.34M
 Computerworld    2.87M
 Network World    923.72K 
 InfoWorld    825.45K
 Dark Reading    403.11K
 Data Center Knowledge 
 InformationWeek    181.03K
 Datacenter Dynamics
 Automation World
 RT Insights    null
 CIO Dive    null

Where, you might ask, is the influence in B2B IT? Increasingly, it's in platforms.

Check out what G2 CMO Ryan Bonnici has to say:

When I joined G2, we were focused on helping buyers find the best software. Part of what I realized was, that’s great, but the reality is, most people’s job is one percent buying software and 99 percent employing strategies to get the value out of it. I knew we could add a lot more value at the bottom of the funnel.

G2 claims more than 880,000 validated user reviews, containing the pros and cons of a given tech product once the user started using it. (In 2017 we called this phenomenon "Yelp for IT".)
G2 is an interesting company -- part database, part marketplace, part publisher. This summer it unlocked its archive of market reports spanning dozens of tech categories. Two months after receiving $55M in VC, G2 acquired Siftery, a startup whose technology reveals what products and services are being used in a given company. This is incredibly valuable data for sales prospectors, and also for a company's own CFO, who wants to know what's being spent and whether budget is being wasted.

It's easy to see where tech trade publishers might be a bit wigged out by competitors like this.

Says the G2 web site:

The current approach to buying business technology is broken. Buyers spend too much time sifting through spin, reading outdated analyst reports, and sitting through endless meetings. After all this, buyers still lack confidence in their choice of technology and most projects fail to meet their expectations. We will change this. 

Wrote ZDNet global EIC Larry Dignan last month:

G2's strategy highlights how data is becoming the new oil -- a raw material that can be turned into more products. As a regular user of G2, I wonder how long before the company's research starts to dig into the fees charged by big firms like Gartner and Forrester Research.

Larry's point is not lost upon Gartner: the company's Peer Insights platform contains more than 260,000 validated user reviews. That's a lot, but G2 has more than three times as many. Gartner has little choice but to play me-too in the platforms game: it has too much to lose if platforms erode the core business.

Look at IBM. It saw "cloud" coming from a mile away but its core business -- big, expensive hardware -- needed to be protected. So IBM had little choice but to stand there on the railroad tracks as cloud approached. Meanwhile, cloud pioneer Salesforce had nothing to protect. Today's Salesforce market cap is $131.15B, topping IBM's at $126.33B.

One of the things Gartner is doing to catch up in the platforms business is asking buyers to complete a ten-minute survey. If you do, Gartner will send you five bucks.

So the point here may be, given enough time, software changes everything. In tech, public relations and analyst relations will continue on in legacy fashion, but the winds of change are blowing. Platforms aren't just on the way -- they're here. Time to harness them. One way to start is by contributing content.