PennWell follows online-first strategy with PennEnergy brand

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What happens when a b-to-b publishing company sets up a new portal encompassing industries represented by a dozen of its primary brands and runs it separately from those brands? PennWell Corp. is finding out with Publishers of PennWell's well-established print brands and companion Web sites—including Oil & Gas Journal, Offshore , Power Engineering and Renewable Energy World—did not warm to the idea of being positioned under a single umbrella online, said Tom Cintorino, senior VP-digital media for PennWell. “So we decided to create a new online-only brand to aggregate content across the power and petroleum industries,” he said. PennEnergy is designed to be “wider in coverage across the total energy industry and deeper in terms of very specific, targeted content than a print magazine,” Cintorino said. Stacey Schmidt, with the title of Web publisher, is responsible for the PennEnergy business. “Our plan is to expand that brand tremendously online,” said Schmidt, who does not have a traditional publishing background. Prior to joining PennWell four years ago, she was responsible for the formulation and implementation of Citgo Petroleum Corp.'s e-business strategy. The PennEnergy organization does not follow the structure of a print organization. Reporting to Schmidt are a product manager, a content strategist, a technical product marketer, a products editor/publisher, a director of research and a sales manager, as well as research analysts and salespeople. One of the primary ways PennEnergy is distinguished from PennWell's magazine sites is the way the content is organized topically. “We did research to break the content down into topic centers that would make sense to the audience. We threw away the traditional magazine approach,” Cintorino said. As to whether PennEnergy will compete with PennWell's magazine sites, Cintorino said, “You could say we're going after the same pie [of advertising dollars] and, if anything, that pie is getting smaller. However, the Web sites of PennWell's magazine brands haven't performed any differently from the rest of the market [during the downturn]. Page and revenue growth on PennEnergy has been incremental, not at the expense of the brand Web sites.” Jayne Gilsinger, PennWell's senior VP-planning and development, said the relationship between PennEnergy and the other brands is primarily a two-way street. PennWell is very well-known across the whole spectrum of energy industries, and PennEnergy can draw on its strengths, she said.
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