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VNU launches flurry of Web-related moves

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VNU Business Media, a unit of VNU, has announced a flurry of Internet-related moves of late, including an international deal with Google, the availability of RSS subscription feeds related to its European properties and the launch of a subscription Web site covering Wal-Mart Stores. What all of these moves have in common is they each position the company to generate new revenue from existing content.

On Feb. 15, VNU Business Media units in the U.S. and Europe announced they would begin offering Google AdWords advertisements on their b-to-b Web sites. As part of the revenue-sharing agreement, Google text-based ads will appear on such sites as those of Billboard, Hollywood Reporter and Accountacy Age.

In effect, the deal opens up VNU Business Media's existing content to a new group of advertisers. "Google's huge collection of advertisers offers the depth necessary to provide relevant ads that match the industry-specific content of VNU's titles," Mike Marchesano, president-CEO of VNU Business Media U.S., and Ruud Bakker, president-CEO of VNU Business Media Europe, said in a joint statement.

VNU Business Media Europe announced Feb. 23 a deal with NewsGator to offer RSS feeds from its technology Web sites in seven countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Spain and the U.K. "We believe that RSS-based reading is the next generation of a rich, personalized experience for our readers," Dominique Busso, CEO of VNU Net, said in a statement.

VNU Business Media U.S.' launch of Smart Supplier, a subscription-based Web site and free e-mail newsletter covering Wal-Mart's marketing and supply chain strategies, is not as technologically cutting-edge as RSS feeds, but it may generate stronger revenues, at least in the short term.

The site is aimed at Wal-Mart's suppliers. "They have to know about Wal-Mart," said Don Longo, director of editorial and content development for VNU Business Media U.S.' retail group. "For large retailers, business with Wal-Mart can make or break their year, especially if they lose the Wal-Mart account. A small company can become a major player by getting into Wal-Mart."

VNU charges $195 annually, or $19.95 a month, for access to the Smart Supplier Web site.

The Smart Supplier project is an attempt to generate subscription revenue to supplement ad revenue, which has become less reliable in recent years. VNU as a whole has been particularly adept at reducing its reliance on advertising revenue, especially with its purchase of information companies such as Nielsen Media Research that rely on subscription revenue.

The Smart Supplier Web site also repurposes existing content. Longo said the site uses previously published material from a number of VNU Business Media publications, ranging from the Hollywood Reporter to Billboard to Convenience Store News, all of which occasionally write news stories of trend pieces on Wal-Mart. "VNU has about 52 b-to-b magazines," Longo said. "It's amazing the high number of them that do something on Wal-Mart."

While it is still in the early stages with Smart Supplier, VNU is already entertaining thoughts of launching similar products. "If this is a success, it's very possible we will do something like this on Carrefour, which is the second-largest retailer in the world. There's also Albertson's or Target."

Smart Supplier is not the first subscription product to follow a company that so dominates its sector. Ziff Davis Media produces "Microsoft Watch." Edited by Mary Jo Foley, "Microsoft Watch" features a free companion Web site that Ziff Davis says generates 123,000 unique visitors per month. 

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