As publishers reinvent themselves, their technology demands are changing as well. Here, FOLIO: spoke with seven different publishing executives—representing a range of large and small, consumer and b-to-b, and city and regional companies—about which technologies have had the biggest impact on their businesses.
CEO, Cygnus Business Media
Audience engagement has been a key focus in maximizing Cygnus Business Media’s technological infrastructure. Fortunately, we have developed a proprietary system that efficiently captures market intelligence as it relates to our audiences. This integrated database, BASE 2.0, delivers robust and detailed data that assesses a user’s activity and participation in print, online and at our tradeshows. This marketing data is invaluable to our customers who understand that their customers must be engaged in each step of the buying process.
We also created a CMS that works alongside BASE 2.0, serving as a centralized data repository that allows us access to content across the enterprise. It is media agnostic, highly efficient and can be integrated in nearly every platform, from portals and podcasts to tradeshows and webinars. We have currently extended its functionality into a new platform we call INCEPTION that was developed as a front end solution, which we are launching on all of our websites and portals. This “web-first” system is designed to leverage the behavioral information captured in our integrated database, micro-targeting customers with products and services they have engaged in or purchased during any given program or event. The result is better lead generation and dynamic insight into our customers.
Instead of digging deep into our content to find information, our technology supplies targeted content and buying information in the form of “additional information” or delivered in search. While it seems everyone in b-to-b is focused on marketing services, data intelligence is what makes us highly competitive as well as giving our customers a significant edge in their marketplace.
Publisher, Oklahoma Today
As with many other small publications, the past few years have been challenging. Oklahoma Today is in the middle of a Web site relaunch and will be purchasing ad-management software in the near future. We’ve been making due with in-house solutions up to now, but we’re ready to make a change. Ask me next year about the impact to our bottom line.
With limited resources and a very small staff, 2010 and 2011 have really been all about social networking for us. We have made use of Groupon and LivingSocial offers with great success. The new subscribers from these efforts in the past year more than make up for the decline we are seeing in our direct-mail effectiveness—and our business manager loves making money rather than losing money per acquisition!
V.P./Group Publisher Bonnier Technology Group, Bonnier Corporation
Each different platform has different needs for content optimization.
One area we’re focused on is mobile apps for phones, and mobile tablet apps. On the mobile phone side, there are so many different ways, tools and software to bring content to mobile devices. We started by building our own PopSci reader, built in-house in 2008 or 2009. We got it up to an install base around 65,000, though we weren’t doing a great job of monetizing it. One of the routes we took in early 2010 was to partner with Zumobi, who helped us build a very strong reader app. We migrated the install base to the Zumobi app. Right now, I think we’re at 70,000 or 75,000 installs. We’re doing a million and a half or two million page views a month. We have a revenue share that we’re able to sell to our advertisers, and we get first dibs—or they’re able to fill it up through the Zumobi network.
Another area with mobile phone apps is an in-house build. We are currently building a PopPhoto buyer’s guide. We’re going to be extracting content from Drupal CMS, so there’s a constant update of the feeds and content. With a buyer’s guide, you have new products, new specs and new prices coming out all the time. You need this constant upgrade. We had put a buyer’s guide in PopPhoto.com, and we’re figuring out a way to extract that content into the app. It will be a free phone app, and we will monetize through advertising.
We’ve been working hard on our mobile tablet apps. We’ve been using the Mag+ platform, which we launched with Popular Science with PopSci +, available in the iTunes store and the iPad. It’s homegrown software that has flexibility for designers, and is extremely easy to use from a magazine designer’s native InDesign files. We take the InDesign files, and we’re able to use those to migrate content into what we consider an amazingly immersive experience designed for the product itself, the tablet. Mag+ has been spun out to Bonnier into a company called Moving Media+. At this time, the Technology Group is Moving Media’s largest client. They’ve been understanding and aggressive in developing things like share, save, “like” and in the move towards the Android platform.
We are working with Ongo as well to make magazine content discoverable and relevant to consumers. Ongo is going after a more upscale, business travel market, and that’s a subscription-based service.
Another area we’re focusing on is reusing and repurposing content. A new company, OnSwipe, is extracting, reformatting and presenting web content in a way that’s beautiful for tablets. We may well move in that direction soon.
From the Technology Group’s POV, HTML5 could be the standard for advertising across all platforms. It’s going to be very important that creative and ad agencies are able to build the ads for their advertisers once, and have it work across all platforms. This way, publishers won’t have to take clients’ files and rebuild them for each individual platform. This is not a sustainable or scalable solution. I believe HTML5 could be the answer, and I think it’s going to be interesting to watch how that unfolds.
CEO of TechMediaNetwork
We could be the poster child for Omniture. We used Omniture for our back-end analytics, but we also use one of their products called Test And Target, which helps with our behind-the-scenes testing. It’s a tool that allows for different customer-facing products and tracks as well. It also analyzes people’s behavior and the directional format. What we’ve found is that for every dollar we have spent on software, we’ve probably gained a $50 return. Omniture’s an expensive product for a smaller publisher; but for us, it has gained huge returns. We’ve been extremely pleased.
For a CMS system, we looked at a number of products for implementation;, for our business model, we couldn’t find an off-the-shelf CMS package. Most CMS systems focus entirely on content production and management of that content. In our company, we try to tie two major functions together—content production and content monetization. We could not find a product that did what we really needed it to do, so we spent a year and a half writing our own internal system. I think there are some great CMS systems out there, but most of them don’t do a great job of tying in multiple revenue and monetization techniques.
We built a back-end platform that has two or three major functions: content production, being able to put content into the system and push it live to your web pages; it also tracks every action the user takes with Omniture, (what pages they visited, what videos, what ads they clicked on, etc.); and we also tie in all the revenue models we have.
Most publishers just focus on display advertising as a revenue source. While that’s one of ours, we also do a lot with performance monetization along the lines of lead generation, e-commerce, affiliate types of things and pay-per-click monetization models. We built a system that ties all three of those functions together, and we now call it our “Circle of Life”. We’ve been live with the system for 10 months.
Publisher and Founder, Chapel Hill Magazine, Durham Magazine
We are fully invested in sophisticated content-management systems, an invaluable CRM service for sales and online proofing with our printer (how did we do it before?!), but we’re frankly wary about technology for its own sake. We may regret this approach someday, but I haven’t yet.
Meanwhile, we’re all about social networking. It’s simply too pervasive not to try to bend to our purposes. How well we are doing is still unclear to me, though our editorial teams are creative and optimistic.
Does this bring in revenue? No. I’ve become hardwired over the years to try to control the costs of our Web presence(s) rather than figure out how to have them generate revenue; our profits are from advertising. Our online value, and it is significant, supports our magazines and its relationship with—mainly but not solely—readers.
I’m now glad that our two fine and highest traffic-in-the-community sites are chock-full of original interesting content, thanks to our creative and energetic editorial teams. Our magazines’ motto is “local, local, local,” and that carries over to our sites. We steal—oops, I mean “aggregate” (that loophole will end someday)—local news feeds so our users can have quick reads about everything from the town council to Duke’s basketball triumphs. But if readers want to enjoy our magazines, they need to get the print version, the only version.
Chief Content Officer, UBM TechWeb
We’re all very aggressive about technology, deeply steeped in the platforms that we’re using, the directions we’re going, and plans for the future in terms of where to best place our investments to support our business.
But at the same time, not only are we an advertising business, but we run a marketing service business with a lot of lead generation involved. One of our areas of emphasis is to make the information available for our audience members coming to our sites relevant to them. Let’s say you’re reading a news story about SSL [a security technology]. We alert you to the fact that we have other assets that might be pertinent to your interest. For example, we might give you a list of white papers available about that technology, alert you to some virtual events or a class that we’re teaching at Black Hat, one of our biggest conferences, about that technology. In order to do that, you need fairly sophisticated infrastructure, what some people refer to as a taxonomy. That’s one big area where our investment is in our taxonomy, so that we can contextually serve all this information.
We’re in the process of taking out our existing commenting platform and replacing with the highly social Disqus. Benefits include that people can log in with their user ID for TechWeb or their user ID from Twitter, Facebook, etc. We realize that people are not going to want to create a bunch of IDs on the network and keep track of all of them.
Another area critical to our success is analytics. We recently switched platforms for marketing services to Eloqua because the highly sophisticated and real-time aspect of all the analytics it’s going to give to us, regarding audience behavior and targeting our audience members with information that’s useful to them.
Vice President, Strategy, Advanstar Communications
There are several technologies that have had an impact on our business over the last year. The key technologies that we’ve been using to grow our business and improve efficiency are social media; software-as-a-service (SaaS); open source; and good old-fashioned Internet bandwidth. We have seen meaningful impact from leveraging social media to grow the reach of our brands and to connect with our customers more interactively.
For example, during WWDMagic, our tradeshow for the women’s apparel market, we developed a partnership with Teen Vogue to create a dedicated blogger’s lounge at the event. We invited influential fashion bloggers to cover the show, using the lounge as their home base.
The bloggers, supplemented with our own staff, used their blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Tumblr to generate over 1.2 million impressions during the course of the campaign, which started in January and ended in early March.
Another big change we’ve made has been the migration of our CRM platform. We’ve moved from a version of Goldmine, which required client software on each salesperson’s laptop, to Salesforce.com, which is purely Web-based.
With our old system, we had to maintain software on literally hundreds of machines, and we had daily issues with database synchronization. With a pure cloud-based system we just don’t worry about those kinds of issues.
We are also in the process of adopting the Drupal open-source Web content management system, along with the Alfresco enterprise document-management system for editor-contributor-community manager workflow and collaboration. We currently have a custom, internally developed Web CMS.
It was a reasonable choice to develop our own CMS when we started 10 years ago, but today it makes much more sense to use a third-party tool.