How trade publishers are tapping into the Web

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As leading trade publishers evolve into integrated marketing companies, the Internet is becoming a linchpin in their new business plans.

The Web's ability to offer a full range of marketing solutions, from advertising to fulfillment to customer service, fits well with the trend of publishers becoming marketing partners of advertisers, offering direct mail, trade shows and print under one corporate roof.

In addition to launching magazines for their Web sites, in fact, most are launching additional sites aimed at small audiences or new customer niches that might evolve into magazines.

Here's a look at what eight major trade publishers are doing on the Web:

Advanstar Communications

The main purpose of Cleveland-based Advanstar's 78 Web sites is promotional support for magazines and shows, says Vice Chairman Jim Alic. But the sites do some commerce in support of that goal.

"We're taking registrations, subscriptions for magazines and, in many cases, we're collecting money for banner ads," Mr. Alic says. "And they're all sold by people who are selling ads and booths."

Advanstar is organized around industry groups and Mr. Alic says its Web sites will eventually be organized the same way. "Over time you'll see more and more a market view of our Web presence rather than a publication or show view. That's in development. As far as I'm concerned that's where we're headed.

"Basic recycled magazine content doesn't work," he adds.

Mr. Alic says Advanstar brings in $500,000 through its Internet efforts, but it also saves money. When show organizers and publishers reallocate marketing dollars to Internet sites, "they can defray that cost easily," he adds, with savings from registrations and subscription fulfillment. They couldn't defray those costs in print and direct mail -- some people have figured it out."

Mr. Alic is thinking of commerce beyond subscriptions, registrations and ad sales, but "I don't think most of our magazines will get there quickly. In terms of becoming an intermediary, literally buying and selling product, it's a ways down the road."

Cahners Business Information

Cahners Business Information, Newton, Mass., has been on a steep Web learning curve for the past three years, says Exec VP Mike Cole, and is only now beginning to capitalize on it. The most important lesson he's had to learn is that management of Web properties can't be entirely driven from the top or the bottom.

"You have to be market-centered and user-centered," he says. That means each magazine the publication runs must find its own business model.

Variety, for instance, created "almost a consumer site," drawing 2 million page views in its first month. On the other hand, he says, manufacturing titles don't need as much technical sophistication.

Audiences also differ in their Web savvy and willingness to pay for specific high-value content, Mr. Cole says. Variety readers want instant access to the latest deals, while American Metal Market readers need a pricing database.

Mr. Cole may be best known for Cahners' Manufacturing Marketplace, launched in March 1997. It links content from 20 magazines and was seen by some observers as a commerce platform.

The marketplace was developed centrally but, Mr. Cole says, "This year we'll probably hand it to our Manufacturing Group as a business" since it's finally more than a development project.

CMP Media

CMP Media, Manhasset, N.Y., has used joint ventures to enhance its content and go into electronic commerce, but it has yet to launch any paid circulation sites.

Says Mitchell York, VP of CMPnet, "Advertising is the predominant business model," but electronic commerce is now starting to happen for the company.

A joint venture with Software.Net to sell software online has been running for six months and the company has added a second such venture, selling hardware with NECX Direct. A site called FileMine, offering software that can be downloaded free, is now CMPnet's most popular feature, he adds.

In addition to sites for its magazines, CMP also has Web-only sites that have proven popular, Mr. York says. "There's TechInvestor, for technology investors. We have TechTools, aimed at Web developers. And NetGuide [a print magazine closed last year] is doing very well as a Web site."

CMP also has more than a dozen free e-mail newsletters, all advertising-supported.

While it doesn't charge for any services, CMP requires registration on sites like ChannelWeb, aimed at computer resellers.

Careful market research, he adds, has been the key to success for both the company and its advertisers. "Our most successful advertisers are those who track their traffic," he says.

International Data Group

IDG, Framingham, Mass., feels credibility is the key to its online success, just as it is in print.

That's why the company recently made a point of publishing ethical guidelines to be used at all 210 of its sites, says Publisher Laurie Morgan.

"They're even more strict than those of the American Society of Magazine Editors," Ms. Morgan says. "The most important have to do with advertising and how it's defined, how a reader can distinguish advertising from editorial."

At IDG, editorial control rests with local editors. But while the site for Publish, aimed at graphic designers, is graphically intense and the site for JavaWorld, aimed at programmers, is heavy with code, there's still a central graphic look, Ms. Morgan says.

The central office also listens in other matters. Network World, for instance, chose to require registration for its site and IDG said OK. Publications may also choose to offer subscription forms online, but they don't have to, Ms. Morgan says.

IDG's corporate commitment includes the technology platform and an ad network. "This makes the process of buying any single audience, or any combination of audiences, as easy as buying a single super site," Ms. Morgan says.

The commitment also includes the IDG News Service, a newswire shared by all sites.

Ms. Morgan says the next area for the company to work on is measurement issues. "The Web is allegedly very measurable but there aren't a lot of standards for what a click or an impression means," she says.

Intertec Publishing

Eric Vianello, director of new media for Intertec Publishing, Overland Park, Kan., whose 80 publications run a total of 37 Web sites, has no illusions about the Web's potential impact: Publishers must either invest or risk the future, he says.

Intertec's latest endeavor is to sell books online. "In some cases we're the publisher, in other cases we're a conduit," Mr. Vianello says. "The editorial staffs give guidance. We handle the back-end processing."

Despite the need to capitalize on the Web, Mr. Vianello is careful about adding new sites. Some 20 Intertec publications, in fact, have yet to get a Web presence.

"We won't let them pursue a Web site unless they have generated a mini business plan," Mr. Vianello says. "I won't allow a project to go forward that will fail because the publisher hasn't thought it through clearly."

While Intertec has centralized the development of its sites, they've all been done after consulting with magazine staffs.

On the sales side, Mr. Vianello says, the keys are education and incentives. That's slowly converted print sales folks into hawkers of new-media opportunities.

Miller Freeman

Every industry is different, says Maureen Keating, business development manager for digital media at Miller Freeman, San Francisco, so a publisher must have a variety of online business models.

The pulp and paper industry membership, for instance, will pay $239 a year for timely market data, so their PPOnline site is subscription-only "and it's thriving," Ms. Keating says.

So is Corporate Traveler, an e-mail newsletter costing $295 a year. On the other hand, the shipping industry's Sea Trade Events show is a free site that saves money by registering attendees for less than the cost of mailings.

Meanwhile, software development magazines have free sites heavy with software code and links to book sales at The healthcare industry's group has sponsors funding virtual symposiums on issues like diagnostic imaging.

"We've drawn a lot of traffic there while only marketing in the magazines," she says. "We're trying to focus our resources on what we know works."

Another Web initiative, called Miller Freeman University, develops courseware for companies like Siemens Nixdorf and Microsoft Corp. Sponsors pay for development while Miller Freeman takes registration data and demographics it can analyze in considering charges.

Ms. Keating is looking for other such strategic alliances that can deliver valuable information on the people who make up the markets it serves. If the company can earn while it learns, so much the better.

Penton Publishing

Cleveland-based Penton's small corporate Web staff exists to serve its various businesses, says Director of New Media John Zernick.

"If they want to do a daily news feed, we'll build forms for that," Mr. Zernick says. "We build production systems and have designers who do the functional navigation."

Beyond that, each magazine and trade show within the company makes its own decisions. "They see us as a service group," Mr. Zernick says. "I position myself as a partner. This is a new marketplace for them."

The local autonomy extends to the company's Web business models. "The sales reps on the magazines handle ad sales," he says. The only exception is the Penton Design, Engineering & Manufacturing Network, a joint effort among 14 magazines that has its own sales staff.

"We are moving into establishing accounts with online banks and certificate vendors," so Penton can sell subscriptions online, Mr. Zernick says. Currently, it just takes applications.

Once the commerce engine is in place, the brand will be extended further, he adds. "Penton has also looked at doing branded products alongside current products. If you get a magazine, you might want some white papers. We'll brand them and put them in an online store."


Ziff-Davis, New York, has the most popular content site in the world, according to Web audience measurement company Relevant Knowledge. The only sites getting more than its 7 million unique visits per month are search engines and default sites, like Microsoft, which many users hit as soon as they go online.

This is all deliberate. "This is not an aside for us, it's a core business," says ZDNet President Dan Rosensweig.

ZDNet is run under tight central control, and all the company's magazines, trade shows, newsletters and market research operations have the same graphic look.

Only two services carry a user fee, based on models from existing businesses. ZD University and Learn-It Online charge for courses on programming and using computers. Access to magazine archives also costs $4.95 a month, based on a CD-ROM offering called Computer Library.

Mr. Rosensweig says his main goal is to make the content widely available.

"We have business relationships that let our content be made visible on MSNBC and let theirs be visible on ours," he says. "The larger sites are looking to round out the user experience."

What Mr. Rosensweig has learned along the way is to listen to the audience. "Create an experience the user wants to have, rather than have a vision of one you need to have on their behalf," he says.

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