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Prism Business Media debuts directory search

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Industry directories have been a bread-and-butter offering of b-to-b media companies almost from the beginning. Today, as publishers ask themselves how they should enter the white-hot area of vertical search, directories with huge amounts of detailed, proprietary, industry-specific data jump out as opportunities. Such is the case with Prism Business Media, which has begun its foray into directory-driven search with two new initiatives.

One is SourceESB.com, an outgrowth of the 20-year-old Electronics Source Book of components, products and services. Officially relaunched on June 6, the redesigned site now offers search by part number, along with direct access to distributors’ inventory data so that the potential purchaser can tell whether a specific part is in stock. Where the distributor has the capability, the user can link through to buy the product online.

“For that market, when you need a component, you’ve got to get it fast,” said Prescott Shibles, VP-new media at Prism. For ease of use, the redesign incorporates such features as one-click distributor information, lists of most frequent and most recent searches, and the ability to generate customized RFQ (request for quote) e-mails.

“The key to successful vertical search is strong data,” Shibles said. “We have a strict quality control process and that’s essential. Otherwise, people won’t use it.”

Nick Hamersley, publisher of SourceESB.com, commented that “the completely rebuilt site offers super-fast search times, highly targeted results and straightforward contact tools,” with more features still to be added. “We're committed to continuing to improve the depth and breadth of the information and the options we offer for electronics parts sourcing,” he said.

Registered users can search for free. SourceESB.com derives revenue from enhanced listings purchased by advertisers. The site is being marketed through print and banner advertising running with related Prism titles, including Power Electronics Technology and RF Design, as well as SourceESB’s own e-newsletter. “We’re also using search engine optimization, which is always a focus for us here at Prism,” Shibles said.

In the second initiative, Prism has just finished creating a buyer’s guide application that can be used companywide. “We’ve created a platform so that we can create vertical search applications for directories across multiple divisions and titles,” Shibles explained.

“We built the platform in-house using open-source applications,” Shibles said, adding that the effort was a result of almost unprecedented cooperation among the publishing groups, the IT group and the rich data group. “It was like the transcontinental railroad that was being built from the East Coast and the West Coast and then met in the middle. We had the data people working on content while the IT side was creating the interface.”

At the same time, both groups were working to incorporate “a robust set of requirements that had come from the different publishers,” Shibles said. The new directory application was piloted with the 2006 Buyers’ Guide at PFFC-online.com, the Web site of PFFC (Paper, Film & Foil Converters).

“We launched the pilot in late January,” Shibles said. “In the first month, we cleared more revenue than we had in the previous five or six months put together.” After testing the PFFC online Buyers’ Guide rigorously, Prism Business Media will roll out the technology to roughly 20 more industry directories this summer, he said.

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