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IDG seeks to reinvent IT media model

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The Internet has had greater impact on publishing in the technology sector than in any other b-to-b vertical. For $3 billion tech media giant IDG, this seismic shift required action—not only to remake the way IT news is produced and distributed but also to reinvent the underlying business model. In an exclusive interview with Media Business last month, Bob Carrigan, CEO of IDG Communications, and Matthew Yorke, president of IDG Strategic Marketing Services, provided an update on the company's strategy to retain its leadership position. “At the heart of what IDG has been doing is to redefine what it means to be a leader in this great category,” Carrigan said. “So we are developing digital marketing businesses as well as digital content businesses. We don't want others to move in and build businesses around our customers.” Carrigan likened IDG to IT marketers such as IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co., which develop integrated solutions for customers that often include technologies they do not themselves provide. “We own a lot of capabilities, but we're extending beyond IDG,” he said. “The integration concept is at the core of our strategy.” Last September, the company's corporate sales group was rebranded as IDG Strategic Marketing Services (SMS). Yorke, who had been senior VP of the corporate sales group, was named president of SMS. “Over the years, we've built a lot of agencylike services,” Carrigan said. “We needed something to tie all of it together and create an echo effect for customers.” Recently, IT marketers have been asking IDG to help them navigate social media. “We feel our company is uniquely positioned in our category to create conversations users find useful and to figure out ways to integrate marketers into those conversations,” Carrigan said. In March 2009, the company launched IDG Amplify to consolidate its social marketing offerings. “We're trying to understand what's going on so we can build strategies for our clients to engage from a social point of view,” Yorke said. Two months after Amplify's debut, IDG formed a partnership with Socialmedia.com to license its proprietary social ad serving platform, which delivers customized, sponsored units designed to stimulate conversations. IDG is also a pioneer in social lead generation. “We're using social listening tools,” Yorke said. “If, for example, there's a question on Twitter asking what people think of one IT product versus another, we can jump in and offer content that will help answer the question. You can give your client an advantage when you start writing content around a topic using the language the users use. The advertiser pays us to create this content and a retainer to manage the social activities around it.” Carrigan said IDG is focused on two additional offerings for marketers—premium lead generation and the IDG TechNetwork. Introduced in 2008, the TechNetwork enables customers to work with IDG to advertise on or generate leads from technology sites that have been vetted by IDG but are not within the company. Among the more than 275 sites in the network worldwide, approximately 175 are based in the U.S. “In March, we served 1 billion impressions, which was a milestone,” Carrigan said. In the fourth quarter of 2009 (IDG's fiscal Q1) , the network's revenue was up more than 300% from the year-earlier period. “We have been very focused on lead generation and all the services that emanate from it for many years,” Carrigan said. “We want to be the dominant provider of premium lead-generation services because there is a correlation between the warmest, best sales prospects and the price the vendor will pay.” “The market is bifurcating,” Yorke said. “There is always going to be the low end of the market with $12 and $15 leads, but smarter marketers have come to realize they'd rather have fewer, more qualified leads than pay very little for a big, big bucket of names.” M
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