On The Value Of Web Portals
Weâve touched on this subject before. Itâs easy to fault publishers for finally jumping on a bandwagon that made the rounds many years ago when âportalâ became yet another hyped concept. Yet itâs a strategy thatâs both a leap of faith and one that I think makes a lot of senseâespecially for publishers whoâve mined a niche for every possible opportunity.
Itâs a strategic leap because youâre essentially taking two or more brands youâve spent years, even decades, developing separately and subordinating them behind a new brand. As a destination, the new site inherently hogs the brand emphasis. Thereâs an opportunity for a great brand debate hereâwhether to continue to highlight niches of niches or bring them together under one, overarching brand.
But the potential of such sites seems significant. Youâre not only consolidating content, youâre consolidating the audienceâat 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 brandâs section of the portal but, importantly, can also graze in the areas where niches overlap. Itâs 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 Warnerâs chopping block (theyâre 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 whatâs to stop a non-magazine competitor from recognizing this same opportunity and developing a market-spanning site, stealing the thunderâand audienceâfrom an established, and, increasingly, âtraditional,â media company? For Jarvis, this may have already happened for some:
The strength of these brands is that they hadânote the tenseâa headstart. They could have used their promotional clout and reputations to enable these communities to form around them. But they didnât. Too late? Maybe.
-- Bill Mickey is editor of Folio:. Follow him on Twitter: @billmickey
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