Vertical search hotly debated on first day of media dealmakers summit

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New York—A panel of b-to-b media executives Monday countered the conventional wisdom that Google and similar search engines are “a mile wide and an inch deep” and pose little or no threat to content-rich b-to-b media companies.

“I would say that Google is a mile wide and a mile deep,” said Eric Shanfelt, VP-eMedia strategy for Penton Media, who appeared at the DeSilva+Phillips 2006 media dealmakers summit. “Users are getting more sophisticated in searching and finding what they’re looking for. So as publishers we have to bring something online that is very unique and that Google doesn’t provide.”

Shanfelt was a member of a panel that tackled the question: “Can vertical search prosper in the age of Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft?” Penton, which has a partnership with Google, has launched three vertical search initiatives: Search Finance, Find Power Products and Machining Web Search.

“It’s egotistical to think we’re the only ones providing content that’s valuable,” Shanfelt said, adding that Penton has other vertical search tools in the pipeline. “This is an opportunity for people with powerful brands to pull together content from editors, vendors, customers and your user base to deploy and enhance vertical search, which is something the general search engines can’t do.”

Mitch Rouda, president of e-Media for Hanley Wood, pointed to, which serves the $150 billion home building products market, as a prime example of vertical search opportunities. “You have to take the full line of products and catalogs and aggregate all of the information into one standard, sortable database,” he said. “If we want to retain our audiences, we have to add value.”

—Matthew Schwartz

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