UBM Tech transitioned online telecom publication Light Reading to a proprietary community platform in August, advancing a digital strategy that radically changes the publisher's editorial approach and will impact all of its brands within the next year.
The move is part of an overall restructuring that began in April, when the business unit announced it would halt print publication and concentrate on digital channels. Light Reading is the third UBM Tech brand to be relaunched on a community platform developed by the company's DeusM group, and the rest of the portfolio is expected to follow suit.
The publishing model, originally deployed on such custom sponsored sites as IBM Corp.'s Internet Evolution, pairs in-house and contributed content in a forum that supports moderated discussion, blogs and social media engagement.
“We tie content and events together online to give customers a 365-degree experience,” said Scott Mozarsky, president-media and partner solutions at UBM Tech. “This is the right way to go. It's supported by the reaction we're getting from our advertisers and our customers.”
Design News became the first in-house UBM brand to switch to the platform two years ago. Traffic within the first four months grew by a factor of five and, in the first year, revenue increased by 25%, said Stephen Saunders, managing director-DeusM.
“[DeusM] is the fastest-growing business unit UBM has ever had,” he said. “The corollary there is that it's by far the most unpopular group in the company. We go in and try to help people run their business better. Some folks don't like that, but you can't argue with the data.”
EE Times made the transition in July. Monthly page views increased by 18% compared with the month before the launch on the DeusM platform, and messages increased by 173%, a company spokesman said. Light Reading page views had grown by 23% before the end of the first month following its relaunch, with messages growing by 132%.
InformationWeek is on schedule to follow in October, Saunders said, and the rest of the portfolio, which includes titles in the business technology, channel, electronics, and game and app development verticals, will catch up next year. The rapid rollover is driven by increased engagement and revenue, he said. Proprietary and traditional analytics packages deliver qualified leads to marketers and also help UBM develop product insights and best practices across the portfolio.
Another key advantage lies within the DeusM editorial approach, which emphasizes community contributions, he said. “It is a low-cost model because a substantial amount—usually over half of the content—is coming from the audience as opposed to editors,” Saunders said.
Light Reading and EE Times had lean editorial departments and saw little change in the lineup when the brands made the shift, he said. But InformationWeek will shed editorial positions on the DeusM platform.
“A lot of the information that [InformationWeek wants] to surface is locked up in the audience,” Saunders said. “They've recognized that, and they're working on getting the audience to deliver the value. When they put up an article from a CIO, it generates five times as much engagement and commentary as an article from an editor.”
On the DeusM platform, editors take a back seat to the community, encouraging qualified experts to share industry insights. Editors still do produce content, and they receive multimedia training. They also become curators of conversation, driving dialogue on the site.
But not all editors successfully transition to the DeusM model, Saunders said. He and his team have developed an editorial assessment program that focuses on the level of community engagement an individual editor spurs. The results are posted within the company. “There is a high turnover rate of the worst and a high promotion and incentive rate around the best,” he said.
Copy editors, increasingly regarded as a luxury in media circles, form a core component of the community model, Saunders said. They ensure content—especially content from contributors—conforms to editorial standards. An eight-person copy desk polishes the contributions that appear on more than 45 DeusM sites, he said, and those ranks are expected to swell as InformationWeek makes its transition in October.
DeusM communities include custom sites developed for marketers, such as IBM and Dell Inc., as well as UBM startups, such as Future Cities, and legacy brands like EE Times.
“Now that's what we're doing for the whole of UBM,” Saunders said. “If we move revenue up even 10% across the entire group, that makes life difficult for UBM's competitors. And that's what we want to do.”