If it’s All About Search on the Internet—the title of American Business Media’s Aug. 16 seminar—many journalistic traditions no longer apply, said a panel of online-focused panelists from About.com, Business.com, Google and Yahoo!
“Google and Yahoo! have become the world’s front page,” said moderator Dan Bigman, managing editor of Forbes.com. “This is a real change in the power dynamic [in media],” he added.
“When you search for news on Yahoo! and other search engines, you see the news first and then the source of that news,” said Greg Bartalos, news editor at Yahoo! Finance. As a result, a small, relatively unknown Web publisher can rank more highly in a search than brands such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. “This levels the playing field,” he added.
Regardless of the quality of your content and the prestige of your media brand, “you have to be where the audience will find you,” said Erin Clift, vertical manager-business and industrial markets at Google. Search engines allow publishers “to extend the reach of your content to a much wider audience than you ever did before,” she added.
Another change is that b-to-b media companies can’t control how readers enter their sites, said Andrew Pancer, COO of About.com. Given that searchers link to sites based on keywords and content, they often don’t enter by way of a home page. “Our goal is for every page on About.com to be a home page, and we make sure our writers, who we call ‘guides,’ are very well trained in search engine optimization,” he said. SEO [search engine optimization] needs to be something you focus on every day, and we do.”
“You have to be found to be considered,” said Chris Hulse, VP-business development at Business.com. “SEO is here to stay, and it’s only going to become more important as time goes on.” Therefore, he said, he encouraged b-to-b publishers to invest in this expertise sooner rather than later.
But does content have to be free? Audience members, including many top b-to-b editors, joined in a lively discussion with panelists about the pros and cons of placing content behind paid subscription walls where it isn’t exposed to spiders, a strategy recently embraced by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times (Times Select).
At Forbes.com, “We have very strong writers covering the stock market,” said Bigman. “The primary way we get new subscriptions for our paid financial newsletters is from the people who have come to read the free content.”
An audience member, Chantal Haberman, director of Internet marketing at Standard & Poor’s, volunteered that she is looking forward to the launch of Google Premium. Although it has not been released—and Cliff would not comment—Haberman said “the concept is for Google Premium to crawl abstracts of paid content,” allowing readers to opt to pay for the full content. “I don’t think you should necessarily give all your content out for free,” she said.