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VNU launches subscription Web site focusing on Wal-Mart's marketing, supply-chain strategies

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BY SEAN CALLAHAN

Many would agree with the notion that Wal-Mart needs to be watched closely. VNU Business Media, a unit of VNU, believes the readers of its Progressive Grocer and other trade publications, in particular, are among those who want to keep an eye on the powerful retailing giant.

Last week, VNU Business Media’s retail group announced the launch of Smart Supplier, a subscription-based Web site and free e-mail newsletter (with headlines from the site), that covers Wal-Mart’s marketing and supply chain strategies.

"They have to know about Wal-Mart," said Don Longo, director of editorial and content development for VNU Business Media’s retail group. "For large companies, 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 VNU Smart Supplier Web site.

This venture illuminates two key trends in b-to-b media. First, it is an attempt to generate subscription revenues to supplement ad revenues, which have become less reliable in recent years. VNU as a whole has been particularly adept at reducing its reliance on advertising revenue with its purchase of such information companies as AC Nielsen and Nielsen Media Research that rely on subscription revenue.

Second, the Smart Supplier Web site is an example of repurposing already 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 or 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."

With Smart Supplier, VNU is still in the early stages, but already the company is 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."

VNU’s Smart Supplies 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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