Going Broad With ‘Gateway’ Web Strategies
Once happy to dice up niches within a market, some publishers are merging related brands online under an umbrella site to leverage their expertise within a broader market experience designed to give readers and advertisers a one-stop shop for content and community. It’s an old strategy that’s back in vogue. Two publishers, Access Intelligence and VNU Business Media, have joined a growing list of media companies that have made the portal leap. Their experience sheds some light on brand impact, content priorities and revenue implications. Early indications are promising.
Content in Context
Under the guidance of Toni Nevitt, president of e-media and information marketing at VNU Business Media, VNU’s Travel and Performance group has corralled five of its magazine brands under one umbrella site, Managesmarter.com, which launched in August. While content in context has always been an important concept, VNU’s strategy to build out its gateway sites is simply to provide more of it.
For Nevitt, the value behind merging the sister brands under a common access point anchored by broader timely content, as well as an array of adjunct products;Webcasts, newsletters, video;was emphasizing a turnkey approach. “What you find has value is the elevation. If you can elevate that out of a brand silo it has great value. Most b-to-b titles are niches of niches of niches. The power of the destination allows us to open our content to many more people than we could afford to do in print.”
Doing so, however, requires a certain degree of brand dilution. Five magazines living together on one site inherently drives the brand emphasis to the gateway. Yet this may not be such a bad thing. Audiences now are arguably driven to information they’re looking for, not a brand, and maintaining a magazine’s brand online is a little bit like preaching to the choir. “You look at how people are finding their information and it might or might not be a brand,” says Nevitt. “Maybe they know that brand and look for it, but there’s an audience out there that’s just looking for information. There’s a potential to bring in more people than you ever had before. But you have to make sure the information is not necessarily organized around the brand but around the subject.”
For Alison Johns, online publisher, Studio and Cable groups at Access Intelligence, that concept became abundantly clear when the traffic to Studiodaily.com;a gateway site to Film & Video, Studio/monthly, HD/Studio and DI/Studio that launched last year;saw its traffic coalesce around content specifically designed for the site, not the magazines. “The other day I compiled the most visited areas,” says Johns, “and only four of them were archival pieces from the magazines. The rest of them were formats original to the Web. The number one was the video player.”
Johns adds that the magazines were initially the drivers, but by month seven post-launch that changed dramatically. Content original to the site became the most used feature. “You can build a new brand very quickly leveraging from existing brands if you complement them and tweak them,” she says.
Behind the scenes, Johns says the database is critical. A gateway site has a variety of classes of content, which impacts how the database stores the data. “On Studiodaily.com the interface is different, it is designed to appeal to a more general reader who may want a more holistic view,” she says. “The database reflects that and the way that we keyword stories is different.”
The intent behind reorganizing Studiodaily.com was to get to critical mass quickly. “The most effective way to compete against sites that had been first-movers was to offer more scope in the experience,” says Johns. What was once negligible traffic to individual sites produced by a third party ballooned to 90,000 monthly visitors to Studiodaily.com, growing 15 percent month over month.
Managesmarter.com is also expecting to see a traffic boost of 15 percent in coming months.
In both cases, the increased traffic;not to mention content;has created more opportunities for advertisers and has made a compelling justification for going the gateway route. Inventory is greater, as is the ability to offer a variety of packages. Jackie Augustine, publisher of VNU’s Travel and Performance group, is expecting 100 percent revenue growth for 2007 based on the gateway model. And, according to Johns, Studiodaily.com has increased its revenue intake by about 400 percent over its individually produced predecessors.
“It’s about aggregating audiences,” says Nevitt. “You need to follow the audiences and when you do that, you also follow the money.”
Pros and Cons of Portals
1) Critical Mass: A new destination site quickly provides broad, market-spanning coverage that exudes an amplified sense of scope and can make your competitors’ sites look wimpy by comparison.
2) Access: Niche-specific content is represented, but customers have the opportunity to graze content where markets overlap.
3) No More Brand Silos: Corralling content under a broader brand elevates it to a level where more customers can congregate.
1) Brand Subordination: Magazines pulled together under one site may suffer brand dilution. A tough pill to swallow.
2) More Work: The new gateway site will be a hungry beast, requiring the constant feeding of new daily content unique to the site.