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ABM conference focuses on online revenue streams

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Neither early-morning snow nor the imminent Easter holiday weekend could keep b-to-b media executives from finding more and better ways to make money on the Internet. American Business Media’s "Online Revenue Strategies" conference, held in New York last Thursday, attracted about 150 attendees, a 36% increase over last year.

Spearheaded by the ABM’s Digital Media Council and Electronic Media Committee, the conference program interspersed two distinct components: 15 b-to-b media executives sitting on four panels shared tips and ideas on online revenue generation from their own experience, and nine vendors gave 10-minute presentations on the solutions they provide.

Search advertising and marketing provided a theme for many panelists. Keynote speaker Geoff Ramsay, CEO of eMarketer, said search advertising takes up more than 40% of the online advertising pie, and he predicted it would grow at a rate exceeding 20% this year.

Citing a statistic that 62% of b-to-b users of search engines click first on the natural search results rather than search advertisers, Ramsay said b-to-b media companies have a particular opportunity to drive traffic to their trusted, industry-specific content through search engine optimization (SEO).

Mike Azzara, VP-group director of Internet business for CMP Media, said, "Good editorial execution is the essence of search engine optimization." He noted, however, that it was difficult to motivate busy editors to do SEO tasks, such as tagging keywords.

After a fully automated keyword tagging system failed to keep up with changing terminology and an in-house system was too much work for editors, CMP started using a content-management system in which editors are presented with automated tags as part of the editorial process and can approve or change the tags to keep them current.

Matt McAlister, VP-general manager of IDG’s InfoWorld.com, explained how his site has improved traffic by having "the editor build a center of gravity around a particular topic." InfoWorld.com has assigned an editor to watch Google News throughout the day to monitor the popularity of stories on technology. As soon as a relevant topic starts moving up, that editor initiates a process in which InfoWorld.com starts covering that topic in several ways—stories, blogs, links, etc. This tactic has increased InfoWorld.com traffic as much as 100% on a particular topic.

Two speakers shared their experiences with webcasting. Tom Cintorino, VP- digital media for PennWell, recommended using a vendor specializing in webcasting because "it is not a core competency for publishing companies." However, he suggested that b-to-b media companies dedicate someone from their own staffs to act as "triage central" to handle customer service issues with the proper speed and sensitivity.

While Cintorino said he favored live webcasts because he could market them as events, Andrea D’Amato, director of strategic alliances for IDG’s Network World, said she has had great success with on-demand webcasts—video-based projects that are taped and edited, then offered to viewers via the Internet. D’Amato said allowing viewers to see some of the video before asking for registration information improved the rate of registration tremendously.

Although an estimated one-third to one-half of b-to-b audiences are still unfamiliar with RSS (really simply syndication) feeds, "this is a new traffic paradigm" that must be explored, said Paul Gerbino, VP-content licensing for Thomas Industrial Network. Thomas currently publishes 52 RSS feeds, which drive more than 100,000 page views per month to its sites.

Calling himself an evangelist for RSS, Gerbino said, "RSS delivers your brand to your reader’s desktop bypassing browsers and the e-mail box. You have to look at it as a delivery mechanism."

InfoWorld’s McAlister said he hasn’t sold advertising within an RSS feed yet, but he believes RSS increases the capacity to generate leads for advertisers.

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