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Advantage Business Media embraces Web 2.0 strategy

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Advantage Business Media is changing the way its Web sites function in order to offer more opportunities for users to interact with its editors and one another. But the company’s new strategy doesn’t end there. Its plan is to free editors from producing all the content on their brands’ Web sites so they can engage with their audiences on their own sites and other places on the social Web.

R&D (www.rdmag.com) and Wireless Week (www.wirelessweek.com) both debuted site redesigns within the past month, but the biggest changes are behind the scenes where content is loaded automatically on to the sites from newswires and other sources.

One result is significantly more content than editors previously produced for their magazines and newsletters and posted on their sites, said George Fox, Advantage president. A more strategic change is the shift of the editors’ focus from producing copy to moderating discussions, developing opinions and using their industry expertise to add perspective.

“We’ve done a series of trainings to get the brand teams primed for our new model,” Fox said. “We’re trying to make the database do more of the work for them. They are losing some control over the content; they can’t touch everything. But they are picking up a much greater variety of content and in-depth information that provides a much richer experience for users. Then we’ve created a platform for them to interact and engage [with their audiences].”

“Since we are aggregating content and we have a lot of things automated, it gives our editors a chance to develop content both on and off their sites,” said Amy Labroo, Advantage’s associate director of online development. “We’re making our editors aware of other sites where they can engage with their vertical communities and drive people back to our sites.”

One example is YouTube, where Advantage editors have begun to set up their own channels. Another social site that has been particularly effective in drawing traffic is Twitter. Advantage is also using search engine optimization to bring more viewers from search engines such as Google and Yahoo.

“Before, we couldn’t do everything we wanted from an SEO perspective because it was too time-consuming. In the new model, SEO is baked in,” Labroo said. “This makes search more convenient for our users, and it also makes our sites much more visible to search engines.”

Advantage is already seeing the changes in its site metrics. Time spent per user has already doubled for the new version of the R&D site, which has been up for about a month. “Traffic coming from search engines increased by about 30% to 40%,” Labroo said.

While SEO and the editors’ efforts outside of Advantage’s Web sites will draw new traffic from previously untapped sources, Fox said, “We want to be more useful to the people who currently use us—and then we can grow from there.”

In addition to the Web sites of R&D and Wireless Week, the site for Product Design & Development is using the new strategy. Two more sites will relaunch with the new model in October, and the remaining 14 major sites will follow shortly afterward, Fox said.

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