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Why Penton has started thinking of itself as a software company

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With various technology-driven projects changing the way it does business, Penton Media is shifting from a traditional publishing mindset to a tech-forward one. “We have to start thinking and behaving like a software company,” said Jasmine Alexander, senior VP-CIO. As Penton begins to introduce more products to be integrated into the work flows of the 17 vertical business communities it serves, she said, the media company wants customers to become more deeply dependent on it, as they do business on a daily basis. It's using products such as Equipment Watch, a database of heavy equipment accessible over the Web, to make that happen. Alexander's team is introducing new functionality that enables subscribers to embed the database's information into their work flows. “We are basically providing a cloud-based software service,” she said. Penton is also leveraging mobile technologies. For its Trusts & Estates brand, for example, it is offering a new iPad app with a $300 annual subscription fee that provides original as well as curated editorial content. Nor is Penton backing away from producing highly valuable original content. “We're doing exactly the opposite,” Alexander said. While news has become a commodity on the Web, Penton is using technology to help its brands produce content that features more analysis and insight. In one major project, the publisher created a database that aggregates content from across the company and will enable employees to easily access and reuse that content. Alexander said that a restaurant brand, for example, might write a story about social media that a Penton brand in the supermarket space could easily adapt to its audience. Overall, Alexander is working to arm all Penton's brands with large-company tech resources, whether that brand's revenue is large or small. “We want to build once and deploy many times,” she said, adding that Penton's team of in-house developers will also adapt technologies rather than forcing brands into a cookie-cutter approach.
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