UBM’s Light Reading group relaunches sites

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While the economy is causing many media companies to hold off on major new initiatives, Light Reading, a unit of United Business Media’s TechWeb that focuses on the global communications marketplace, relaunched its Web site Monday. Sibling site, which covers wireless technologies for enterprise IT executives, was simultaneously relaunched using the same template.

“I think this relaunch gives us a competitive advantage, especially since it’s not the only thing we’re doing,” said Michelle Gray, associate publisher of Light Reading. “We are also investing in new products and editorial. We post three to five original news analysis stories every day, at a time when competitors are cutting back.”

Other new initiatives include the upcoming debut of Light Reading Asia and Light Reading’s first virtual trade show, both scheduled for next month.

Warren Hultquist, director of Web operations at Light Reading, said the site relaunch plans were hatched early last year, prior to the economic meltdown. He said the group was able to take advantage of in-house resources and experience to proceed despite the downturn.

“We are using a new home-grown publishing platform that we tested with the launches of two smaller sites, Internet Evolution and Contentinople,” he said. Contentinople and Internet Evolution were new Web brands when they debuted in 2007.

One advantage of the new platform, Hultquist said, is its performance. “With the old platform, we had a lot of legacy code that over time slowed things down,” he said. “Now, it’s much snappier.”

The site has been redesigned to eliminate the visual clutter of a home page that included tinted boxes. The revised home page has a white background, is wider and has more space between the various elements.

Site navigation has been simplified with a set of tabs keyed to topic channels—such as broadband, ethernet, mobile and security—at the top of the home page above the logo.

“One of our design goals was to give more obvious priority to specific things,” Hultquist said. Light Reading TV is one of those. An LR TV box is now placed in the upper-right-hand corner of the home page, and a slider allows the user to browse thumbnails of 10 recent videos without leaving the page.

Another priority was to showcase and increase audience participation. While the site already had user comments and message boards, it now allows users to set up personal profiles, rate content and sign up for e-mail alerts that let users know when another user has responded to their comments.

The new site structure also gives additional flexibility to Light Reading clients. “We can get more creative with lead generation, for example, by customizing registration questions for clients; and we can also make changes very quickly,” Hultquist said.

“We now have more opportunities to give advertisers home-page exposure because of the wider format,” Gray added.

On story pages, rich media ad units called “virtual channel ads” are positioned at eye level with related editorial content. “The virtual channel is not a flat ad unit,” Hultquist noted. “It includes assets, like white papers, that the client can use for lead generation. We can now place these ads at the top of the page, just to the right of the headline of the story the user has selected so that they are targeted contextually.”

Light Reading, an early Web-only b-to-b media site, was founded in 2000 and acquired by UBM in 2005 for $27 million. Unstrung,, was included in the deal. The group also includes Cable Digital News, an online b-to-b site acquired by Light Reading in 2006.

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