On The Value Of Web Portals
Weâ€™ve touched on this subject before. Itâ€™s easy to fault publishers for finally jumping on a bandwagon that made the rounds many years ago when â€˜portalâ€™ became yet another hyped concept. Yet itâ€™s a strategy thatâ€™s both a leap of faith and one that I think makes a lot of senseâ€”especially for publishers whoâ€™ve mined a niche for every possible opportunity.
Itâ€™s a strategic leap because youâ€™re essentially taking two or more brands youâ€™ve spent years, even decades, developing separately and subordinating them behind a new brand. As a destination, the new site inherently hogs the brand emphasis. Thereâ€™s an opportunity for a great brand debate hereâ€”whether to continue to highlight niches of niches or bring them together under one, overarching brand.
But the potential of such sites seems significant. Youâ€™re not only consolidating content, youâ€™re consolidating the audienceâ€”at once reaching critical mass in both scope and reach, elevating brands that were divided and endlessly niche-ified. Readers can still get their core needs met within each brandâ€™s section of the portal but, importantly, can also graze in the areas where niches overlap. Itâ€™s a marriage of the broad and focused.
Content is broken out of brand silos and advertisers are given efficient and varied access to the entire span of the audience. Publishers can harness a greater exponent of their community in a shared arena.
Jeff Jarvis recently riffed on the popular what-if scenario that Time Inc. is next on Time Warnerâ€™s chopping block (theyâ€™re already selling most of Time4, a group of titles that are generally one or two in their markets). The thinking is that the Time Inc. magazines are a drag on performance and they got burned with their portal attempt called Pathfinder back in the day.
Though more recent efforts have been made with the destination concept: CNNMoney.com collects Fortune, Money, Business 2.0 and Fortune Small Business under one umbrella. And Time4, by the way, just days prior to the announcement that the bulk of the group would be sold, announced the launch of SkiNet, a destination site backed up by Ski, Skiing and Warren Miller Entertainment. All three are now for sale. Too little, too late, for Time Inc. perhaps.
And whatâ€™s to stop a non-magazine competitor from recognizing this same opportunity and developing a market-spanning site, stealing the thunderâ€”and audienceâ€”from an established, and, increasingly, â€˜traditional,â€™ media company? For Jarvis, this may have already happened for some:
The strength of these brands is that they hadâ€”note the tenseâ€”a headstart. They could have used their promotional clout and reputations to enable these communities to form around them. But they didnâ€™t. Too late? Maybe.
-- Bill Mickey is editor of Folio:. Follow him on Twitter: @billmickey
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