WATT powers up five new industry and social sites

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Over the past nine months, WATT has been carrying out a major reshaping of its digital offerings. In the spring, it launched online communities on the Ning social media platform for each of its major industry groups— for animal agribusiness, in the pet food industry and for woodworking.

In August, WATT debuted to replace three industry-specific sites,, and The underlying strategy was not only to aggregate three vertical audiences to create a more compelling venue for large agribusiness advertisers but also to provide a platform that will allow WATT to expand beyond its poultry, pig and animal feed roots.

“Rather than having Web sites for three small markets, we now have WATTAgNet to serve global agribusiness,” said Bruce Plantz, VP-director of content. WATT has been missing a big segment of animal agriculture, the cattle-dairy business, because it does not have a print magazine covering the field. “This new site gives us a [cost-effective] way to get into that market, which we will do at some point,” Plantz said.

In the meantime, WATTAgNet is attracting advertisers, such as John Deere, “we couldn't have gotten before,” he said.

In the woodworking market, WATT published two magazines, FDM and CabinetMaker. Closely tied to housing, the market has been struggling. With the advertising base only a fraction of what it was four years ago, two competitors recently folded. So, WATT consolidated forces and launched a new combined print title, CabinetMaker+FDM, in September. Earlier this month, it rolled out a companion Web site, uses the same underlying structure as, Plantz explained, adding that the company decided it didn't need to reinvent the Web site architecture for each new site.

Compared with their predecessors, both sites feature bolder editorial graphics, improved video and enhanced search capabilities, Plantz said. They have been updated with Web 2.0 features such as the ability to comment on articles or share them on social sites, lists of most popular stories and most watched videos, and automated suggestions of related articles. While there is more advertising inventory in total, the home pages of each new site are less cluttered with competing commercial messages.

Both new sites link to their companion community sites—AnimalAgNet and Sawdust Soup—and highlight blog posts and discussion groups from those communities on their home pages. By maintaining separate URLs for the social networking sites, WATT is taking a hands-off approach that encourages members to participate in the sites as if they belonged to the entire industry rather than one publisher, Plantz said. WATT doesn't sell advertising on the social sites, although its sites benefit from the traffic.

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