Surprise? Publishers Firmly Embracing ‘Long Tail’
Publishing Technology: Roundtable follow-up.
Last July, FOLIO: led a roundtable discussion with nine industry leaders about the ever-evolving world of magazine publishing technologies. Topics discussed included print manufacturing, the transformation of e-media, databases and more.
We caught up with several members of the original group to find out what, if anything, has changed and if their predictions came true.
FOLIO:: At the start of that roundtable discussion, several of you indicated that RSS feeds were having the greatest impact on your businesses. Is that still true today?
Paul Gerbino, publisher, ThomasNet: We still see around 16 to 17 percent of the page views coming from usage of our RSS. The usage still comes from different channels.
Today, from an overall ThomasNet perspective, [what’s having the biggest impact] is the development of catalog enabling technologies that allow our advertisers to compete in today’s marketplace. It is one thing to create awareness for our advertisers and to drive traffic to their sites, but if they cannot convert that traffic into customers, then it is difficult for them to grow and, in turn, grow their investments with us.
Doug Harbrecht, director of new media, the Kiplinger Organization: Not as much with RSS. The big surprise for me this year has been the firm industry embrace of the “Long Tail” theory. Despite the economic downturn, we’re getting a growing number of RFPs from big online advertisers who haven’t been with us in the past.
Through research, they’re discovering niche targets important to their strategies in our core audience. This development promises continued strong growth for us. Our challenge is to keep growing our audience with the trusted, tried-and-true wisdom that Kiplinger is known for, in more focused ways, building new communities.
FOLIO:: Regarding manufacturing and proofing, you spoke about the opportunities in going proofless. What advances have you seen here? Is it still as relevant?
Jim Delahanty, director of production and digital ad services, BusinessWeek: I haven’t seen a lot of progress in this area and have not received overwhelming requests from our advertisers to move in this direction. Agencies appear to remain cautious in moving in this direction and prefer still to send a proof as guidance on press.
Also, many print vendors are not convinced the investment to outfit each press with monitor proofing equipment would give them the payback they are looking for. The focus of printers continues to be investment of closed-loop systems and running to “the numbers,” which have recently been improved by SWOP.
FOLIO:: When asked what your biggest technological imperative was over the next year you said it was having a consistent content management system across your publications and Web sites that would allow you to tag [content] and understand what you have rights to use and how you can use them. Was that, in fact, the most imperative? How did it work out?
Chris Johnson, vice president of content and business development, Hearst Digital: We rolled out an open-source content management system, built by our in-house development team, which allowed us to standardize our production process. We’ve just completed upgrading and redesigning the blog, photo gallery and search experiences across our 15 magazine-branded sites in just a few months.
We expanded the system to enable syndication, user-generated content, promotions management, and integration with out image storage system. This year, we’ll roll out a completely integrated image management process, which will cut hundreds of hours of manual work that our site editors undertake each month.
Effective digital asset management is critical to mining the gold out of the vast content mines that companies like Hearst have in digital format.
FOLIO:: You said your biggest technological imperative was to leverage RSS feeds to microtarget audiences to get them to visit specially-designed landing pages that you thought advertisers would pay a premium for. Was it?
Harbrecht: Most imperative? Not so much, but still imperative, yes. We’ll focus on that later this year.
We want to implement Flash toward the end of the year to give our visitors a richer experience, improving the presentation on our home page, improving slide shows and quizzes. We just invested in new video graphics technology that gives our videos a zippier, more polished look and feel. We’re already using it.
Heading into next year, we are exploring new CMS platforms that will allow us to better integrate interactive elements such as forums and reader comment boxes with our overall editorial content.
FOLIO:: What are your imperatives for the remainder of the year and heading into 2009?
Delahanty: This year and next we are in the process of upgrading our issue mapping and ad tracking to Publisher’s Studio and are launching an ad portal later this year for advertisers who want to deposit their ads via this method. We continue to look at hosted solutions applications and review technology and how it supports the business community.
Johnson: From a publishing perspective, we’re focusing on open-platform initiatives, such as incorporating third-party technology solutions and improving our ability to ingest and manage user-influenced content. We’re partnering with major portals and search engines to use their enabling technologies—like registration, search query results, and mapping systems—inside our pages.
To be competitive, we have to integrate with the best of what’s out there, and be selective about what we build ourselves.