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From media to marketing

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Penton Media, publisher of Machine Design and Nation's Restaurant News, made its clearest signal yet that it is betting heavily on online marketing services to transform its business when it acquired EyeTraffic Media last month.

“Our senior team has felt for some time that a marketing services offering—including online lead generation for our clients—was a critical component of our growth agenda,” Penton CEO Sharon Rowlands said in a statement. “EyeTraffic forms the cornerstone of such an offering.”

The deal presages a larger move by Penton, which is expected to announce a new, companywide approach to marketing services this month. Kim Paulsen, senior VP-marketing services at Penton, will oversee the integration of EyeTraffic, which will bolster Penton's capabilities to deliver online marketing services to its customer base.

“As we have done a lot of homework in looking at our customers across the board and what their needs are in terms of being successful in today's environment, digital services, online marketing support, their websites are their biggest pain point,” Paulsen said. “They built these websites and nobody comes. So our intention in the acquisition of EyeTraffic is we want to help our customers do a great job of building their own Web engines, their own lead-management care mechanisms so that they actually can do a great job of providing the right information to sellers.”

Penton is not alone in attempting to seize the opportunity in online marketing services. Numerous business media companies are offering marketers lead-generation programs, microsite development, search engine optimization, webinar production, social media consulting and other services.

B-to-b marketers plan to increase their use of marketing services from publishers this year, according to a recent report from research firm Outsell Inc. Seventy-two percent of large b-to-b marketers used publishers for marketing services last year, and 85% plan to do so this year, according to Outsell. Sixty-six percent of small b-to-b marketers used publishers for marketing services in 2010, and 81% plan to do so this year.

“Online marketing right now is so complicated for companies,” Paulsen said. “They know they need to have a Facebook page. They know they need to have a Twitter account. They know they should be doing things like this, but they don't really know why.”

As they have in so many arenas, technology publishers such as International Data Group, United Business Media and Ziff Davis Enterprise have led the way in the development of online marketing services.

Ziff Davis Enterprise CEO Steve Weitzner said media companies are in an excellent position to help marketers because they have a deep understanding of the markets they serve and they have unmatched audience databases. “It's still a question of building audience, and the media is what allows us to gain that audience and grow that audience,” he said.

At UBM's TechWeb, CMO Scott Vaughan said the emphasis on marketing services has in effect inverted the unit's business model. “It's changed so many different things,” he said. “It's changed the way we're structured. It's changed the type of people and experience we have on staff. It's changed the way we approach client engagement.

“And here's a big change. It used to be you led with media. Now, based on customer objectives, you're very often leading with more of the services.”

Helping marketers generate leads in various parts of the buying cycle is a key service offered by tech media companies. This includes helping them assess the content assets they have on hand and how they can be deployed online to help potential customers move through the buying process.

“Many companies need a more coherent content strategy,” said Bob Johnson, VP-principal analyst for IDG Connect, which has helped companies such as Hewlett-Packard Co. with content assessments. “Companies that are trying to sell more complex solutions are reaching extended buying teams. So you have these different roles you have to address.”

The shift to marketing services has also altered the kind of hires media companies are marking. “We've had agency people,” Weitzner said. “We've had marketing people who have specific knowledge of how those [marketing] programs should work.”

At Vance Publishing Corp., the director-marketing solutions is Jo Ellen Enns, who spent more than two decades at advertising agencies before joining the publisher of Modern Salon and Pork four years ago. Different markets are attracted to different online marketing services, Enns said. For instance, in the salon market, social media is hot. Vance will monitor chatter on various media sites for clients. “We'll write content for them and post it for them,” she said. For the agricultural market, custom e-newsletters and webinars are popular means for reaching a targeted audience with complex content, Enns said. Farm Journal Media also serves the agricultural market. Its AgWeb site has created sponsored content sections such as TalkWeeds.com, a community-oriented site sponsored by Dow AgroSciences, to help marketers reach farmers. Farm Journal Media is also moving quickly into the next frontier of marketing services: mobile media. It acquired an equity stake in Commodity Update, a company that streams commodity prices to mobile devices. Farm Journal brokers deals that allow ag marketers, such as Monsanto, to sponsor free delivery of the pricing information to the mobile devices of targeted farmers.

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