In August 2006, b-to-b publisher Access Intelligence transformed its circulation department into an audience development department, which would focus on Web and traffic-building as part of its overall audience-generating efforts. It was then that senior vice president of audience development Sylvia Sierra realized the job could not rest entirely on the audience development marketing staff alone.

As a result, Access Intelligence created “Traffic Squads” to serve each of its five markets: Satellite, cable, chemical engineering, aviation and media. Every week the Web publisher, editor, audience development director and marketing/communications specialists from each market get together for a meeting to go over all of the Web activity from the prior week.

“You see a lot of companies now with e-media divisions that take care of all the e-media offerings,” says Sierra. “We made the decision that Web traffic and community is everyone’s business.”

The traffic squads discuss the Web metrics and activity over the prior week—everything from unique visitors and traffic to what the top editorial stories were—to determine what content is bringing in the audience. “Knowing what’s happening on the edit side on the Web allows for the marketers in marketing, communications and audience development to create partnerships and work with advertisers on programs that will bring people to the right landing page,” says Sierra.

In some markets, traffic has grown between 15 and 20 percent since the creation of the traffic squads. New products include pay-per-view Webinars, which have increased in frequency from one per quarter to monthly. New e-letters have emerged from the company’s various markets due to the squads’ analysis and better understanding of the community. All of the electronic products have brought in more revenue from advertisers and sponsors.

In terms of financial impact, the company expects a bottom-line delivery of at least 40 percent. “The Web has a very long tail that allows us to look at new and merging markets and take the power of information in multiple, cross-markets,” says Sierra. “The challenge is transforming the thinking of limited print real estate versus the idea that I can service information to many markets, and that’s okay.”

Challenges with the new strategy included the process of getting internal staff members to understand the difference between traffic and community, says Sierra. “One of the great lessons learned is that traffic is a good indication of people coming in and out of your Web site but it doesn’t necessarily address community,” she says. “It’s important to not just look at Web traffic but also define the audience and then realize where your community is.”

Training employees from the various publishing units to become familiar with e-media tasks and procedures also took time and resources. “They’ve had to learn a whole new language and a whole new set of metrics,” says Sierra. “It’s confirmed that in audience development, no one knows more about how to define an audience and unite buyers and sellers in a community than traditional circulators do.”