Penton Media today announced its new Marketing Services Group, a unit that will offer custom content, research and digital and sales optimization services to customers in 17 vertical markets. The group is headed up by Kim Paulsen, senior vice president of marketing services.

The move comes one month after Penton bought digital marketing services agency EyeTraffic Media. Former EyeTraffic CEO George Assimakopolous will service as vice president of digital media services with Penton.

According to the Penton Marketing Needs survey,

•Websites are not doing their job generating leads- 59 percent of respondents indicate their website is designed to generate sales leads yet 76 percent of those respondents say the site is less than "very effective" at meeting that objective.
•The majority of respondents (64 percent) are not social media savvy and are in the dark about what is being said about their companies online.
•Half of all respondents are "less than satisfied" with their company’s contact strategies for lead generation, lead nurturing and lead scoring.
•Over a third of respondents (36 percent) find online marketing very challenging.

"Marketers are clamoring for new solutions to grow their businesses and they want providers intimately familiar with their industry segment," said Penton Media CEO Sharon Rowlands in a statement. "Penton Marketing Services perfectly aligns our capabilities and deep knowledge of our markets with this demand. We are committed to driving results for our customers with industry-leading products and services that reflect expert analysis and best-of-breed practices."

Publishers are scrambling to build out their marketing services offerings. PC World and Macworld have launched a separate group called Content Works with separate editorial and sales teams (services run the gamut from white papers and articles to videos and live events).

Hanley Wood actually has two different groups dedicated to marketing services, including Hanley Wood Custom Solutions–focused on customers who are also advertisers–and Hanley Wood Marketing, which handles non-endemic clients.

Last fall, UBM launched an integrated marketing services company called DeusM, which leverages "business social media" as its primary offering, creating specialized, proprietary communities for sponsors, which can also take advantage of broader social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. UBM has leveraged that approach to launch communities in Internet Evolution (sponsored by IBM), Enterprise Efficiency (sponsored by Dell) and EBN, which has multiple sponsors.

Consumer publishers such as Hearst and Meredith are heavily involved in content marketing as well. Hearst’s iCrossing (the digital marketing agency Hearst bought for $325 million last year), offers the Content Lab, an initiative that brings together brands (such as Coca-Cola and Toyota), media companies and agencies to discuss producing multi-platform content. iCrossing is also launching the Live Media Studio, a physical organization that will execute programs developed in the Content Lab.

"Bought, earned and owned are mechanics for how content is actually deployed, distributed and experienced," says Adam Lavelle, chief strategy officer at iCrossing. "Building connected brands is really the driving theme and we do that in bought, earned and owned media. Content fuels all of that."