Startup Stories: Online Security
In September 2004, Cygnus Business Media launched SecurityInfowatch.com, its third Web portal and first outside the public-safety category. The site was designed as a comprehensive destination for security end-users, dealers, integrators and manufacturers and as a way to compete in a category with a glut of print magazines but few good online properties.
"We saw Web sites that we considered mediocre at best still getting ad dollars," says Paul Andrews, vice president of interactive sales. "There had been a b-to-c play with Lessons for Public Safety but this was the first time there was a pure b-to-b play. We knew the demand was there and we recognized that the supply wasn't. Being first was going to make a difference."
Cygnus tapped publisher Paul Kaplan, former publisher of Primedia Business' Access Control, to develop the portal. "The question was, how do you create a portal for an industry that has a lot of different niches?" says Kaplan. "This is an industry that has about 10 different magazines in the U.S. The market is split between end-user-side;facility managers, corporate security managers;and the dealers and re-sellers on the other. How do you create an active Web site that addresses the information needs for all of those?"
Cygnus has three magazines serving the space: Security Dealer, Security Technology & Design, and Locksmith Ledger. "Obviously, content could be culled from there, but a real portal can't rely on magazine content," says vice president of publishing Dave Iannone. "The idea was let people hit what they needed within two or three clicks on the site."
Development of the site took three months from start to finish, a time frame usually reserved for large companies with a dedicated online division. "That's pretty typical of our larger Web sites; we have a process in place, that speeds our ability to get sites to market quickly," says Iannone. "The biggest challenge was making sure we were marketing to the right places to drive traffic."
SecurityInfowatch.com launched with a healthy opt-in subscriber list and one newsletter, which has since evolved to a mix of seven weekly and monthly newsletters. "The way to drive traffic to the Web site is to have enough outbound material that links back to the site," says Iannone. Today the site offers an area for industry events, job listings, Webinars, research, and RSS feeds to select high-paying advertisers that link content back to their own sites. In 2006, SecurityInfowatch.com will add a Buyer's Guide section and begin podcasting.
"Interactive marketing is not something the security industry is used to and we're helping them define how to best use this channel," says Andrews. Charter advertisers included BioScrypt, Galaxy Control Systems and Mitsubishi. "It's commonplace now, but when we launched a year ago, using large format ads was new," Andrews adds. "Agencies are requiring large format ads, we were on top of that. Using rich media to boot helped us jump start the site."
Today SecurityInfowatch.com is a "million dollar property" that draws an average of 35,000 unique visitors per month. "For the first couple of months it certainly operated at a deficit but it's profitable to the point that it pays back any investment," Iannone adds. "We're launching most of our Web sites now on a for-profit budget right from the get go. The centralized resources allow that to happen. The next portal we build will be for construction;we already have an existing Web site in ForConstructionPros.com, and we can rebuild it with dedicated staff."
Iannone counsels publishers to find a strong leader who can push the site not only externally but also internally. "You have to find a champion in edit or sales to drive that Web site," he says. "A lot of our Web sites do very well, generating six figures without a lot of dedicated staff. But to be the leader in the market, a portal needs not only dedicated staff but has to click with publication and trade show staff."
||| TAKEAWAYS |||
Publishers can share internal resources to hold down costs but there has to be a strong individual promoting the site not only externally but also internally.
Establish a Process for Online Launches
Don't let the rush to capitalize on the demand for online prevent you from developing a detailed plan. Cygnus has developed a formula that enables it to launch sophisticated Web properties quickly and cheaply.
Stay Ahead of the Curve
If it's inevitable, why delay? Cygnus made the portal compatible with large-format ads, convincing several key advertisers to commit before the portal even launched.