Now global, Incisive develops custom

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When U.K.-based Incisive Media, backed by Apax Partners, acquired ALM from Wasserstein & Co. in August 2007, executives on both sides of the deal said accelerating ALM's relatively underdeveloped online business presented a large and immediate opportunity.

"We were underinvested online, and we are now investing more heavily since we were bought last summer by Incisive," said Bill Pollak, former ALM CEO and currently Incisive's chief executive, North America. One of the most critical investments, he said, is the proprietary Web content management system Incisive is building.

The Incisive CMS should be ready for deployment in North America by the end of 2008 or early next year. It will take about a year to convert more than 50 sites to the system.

Alex Kam, VP-digital media at Incisive, joined ALM as VP-digital strategy and business development in March 2007. At that time, ALM was using a FatWire CMS that dated back to about 1999. "It didn't have the functionality we needed, and it was no longer supported," Kam said. "In addition, because we had acquired some companies since then, we were trying to use multiple systems. This created a lot of risk for our business."

Rather than delaying a CMS conversion until the Incisive system was ready, the ALM unit upgraded to the most current version of FatWire. "The upgrade was launched in May of this year and has been a success," Kam said. "We now have a strong, stable platform in place."

The new CMS is being developed in the U.K. by an Incisive team that has experience building and supporting these systems. It is based on an open-source platform—software developed by a community of volunteers on the Internet—and will be tailored to the specific requirements of Incisive, a global b-to-b media and business information company that generates more than 35 million page views a month across more than 100 online properties.

Kam said the system is being built to meet all the typical goals of a b-to-b publisher on the Internet, which include giving more control over content to editors and site users; creating a more dynamic, two-way community environment; and cost reduction.

Incisive also wants to expand video and other multimedia offerings, to speed new products to market and to be able to scale quickly to add Web sites and other new products, as well as to accommodate possible future cquisitions.

The system will also factor in specific characteristics of Incisive resulting from its having been built through several acquisitions. "Much of the North American business, particularly in the legal field, is subscription-based, so the infrastructure needs to be built for access control and e-commerce," Kam said. "The U.K. business model is more advertising-dependent."

Near the top of the company's list of requirements is "a CMS that will potentially share content across the company, allowing us to pull, package and share content from a common repository," he said.

Once the CMS is in place, Kam plans "to learn from the users," he said. "We want to do a lot of testing and surveys." By identifying audience needs early, Kam believes Incisive can stay on the leading edge of Web features and functionality.

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