Penton's new VP-audience development bets on data quality to drive digital future

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Company: Penton Media
Location: New York
Title: VP-audience development and research
Big move: Former VP of brings Web expertise to Penton as the company moves to strengthen its online presence
Core responsibilities: Growing audience across Penton brands in 17 markets while increasing revenue from data and market research

Brad Mehl's strategy in the push to dominate a competitive media environment is clear: “Whoever has the best data wins,” he said.

The new VP-audience development at Penton Media plans to build market insights that will help the company secure wins across 17 diverse verticals. He took the position at Penton in July, joining a company that is investing in the expansion of its digital offerings after emerging earlier this year from bankruptcy protection.

“The opportunity to help accelerate the transformation at Penton was totally irresistible,” Mehl said. “I'm talking about new revenue streams, new uses for content, new targeting possibilities—really just helping shape the digital future of this company. Penton has leading brands in its markets, and there is a tremendous amount of raw material in terms of assets to work with.”

Mehl will be responsible for developing best practices for marketing to audiences such as fire chiefs and electrical engineers, as well as providing product development insights. He will also steer the growth of the company's research and data capabilities, assets that will then be monetized in the custom advertising sales group.

Mehl already rolled out a new process to help the company better understand its audience. “Penton had some decent Web tracking in place, but the idea is to take it to the next level through new methodologies and ... new technologies,” Mehl said. “We define the audience segments, and we look at online behavioral data and survey data to really articulate how the audience is perceiving our brand.”

Mehl said he expects to see the company grow both webinars and continuing education programs, and also explore products that could deliver real-time commodity pricing to key markets.

“We're going to see overall a continued shift to growth on the Web,” he said. “Not just ad dollars, although that's a big trend, but more in data-driven products. The Web provides a variety of revenue stream possibilities.”

Addressing the audience at Penton is not simply a matter of broad strokes, Mehl said. Analysis must account not only for audience needs and habits in diverse verticals but also the needs and habits displayed by the various populations that make up each vertical.

“There is a great level of segmentation,” he said. “Some things just work well on the Internet, like a streamlined Web form that captures 40% more information or an approach to sharing content. Then you've got things that just work well for specific markets, given the nuances of those markets.”

Frequent search terms can be flagged, for example, and Penton can develop new content around those terms, giving the company increased agility as it adapts to audience needs. The research will also allow Penton to strategically move forward digital initiatives that include blogs, e-newsletters and mobile offerings.

Honing both marketing message and content is key, Mehl said. “It's really important that we speak the language of our audiences.”

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