Custom publishers and traditional publishers who do custom publishing say custom Web sites are on the rise, as advertisers gravitate online to reach their customer bases. “I would say about four or five years ago, we really started seeing custom publications start looking to the Web as a showcase for some their magazine content, as well as some archive material,” says Craig Waller, chief management officer for custom publisher, Pace Communications.

But in the last year or two, Waller says he’s seen the Web become more than just a complement to a custom publication. Marketers are now using custom Web sites as stand-alones or to carry the interactive content that magazines cannot.

Both Waller and Redwood Custom Communications CEO Eric Schneider say custom Web sites are the fastest growing segments of their businesses. Custom Web sites now make up 15 percent of Redwood’s business, Schneider says.

Redwood recently published a Web site for Kraft Foods containing recipes, video segments and the opportunity to sign up for e-mail recipe alerts.

Schneider says custom Web sites should provide users with interactive opportunities, such as video and blogging. “You want to have the opportunity to engage people in a dialog,” he says. “Blogs are a good way of doing that. Self-expression is a significant trend that we’re seeing on sites like MySpace and YouTube. So if you give them opportunities to post their favorite recipe or to show before and after shots of a home make-over, it adds that voyeuristic quality to it.”

One of the more recent stand-alone Web sites Pace created was for apparel-maker, The North Face, says Waller. “In North Face’s case they wanted to reassure they’re core customer base that they are still are committed to the hardcore outdoors market,” he says. “North Face has become a very fashionable, but they have a really strong existing community that are dedicated to the outdoors and that’s the lifestyle they wanted to create the Web site for.”

David Fireman, director of business development for Primedia’s Outdoors Group, which recently completed a custom Web site pairing the outdoors group’s edit with information on the Ford Expedition, says custom Web sites also provide advertisers with lead generation and engagement data. “There’s a direct response component in terms of visitors and unique visitors,” says Firemen, who adds that Web measurement data can provide advertisers with information as to how long people are spending on the site, where they’re spending their time and with the contact information that people often provide to enter contests and sign-up for e-mail alerts.

Custom Web sites vary in prices. Sometimes they’re offered free as a complement to a printed publication, but they can also cost several thousand dollars, depending on the depth of the content provided by the custom publisher.

Fireman, Schneider and Waller say custom Web sites represent the fastest growing segment of their custom publishing businesses, but still make up a small segment of their overall businesses. “I would say it’s about 15 percent of our business and growing,” adds Schneider.

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