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Todd’s commentary: Paul caught a bit of flack for Frank’s title on the session, but he lived up to his rep. Thomasnet has made a great leap of faith from beyond the confines of a subscription model to shift to a new media ad model. His interview with Frank was both entertaining and insightful. I asked a question about what were the determining variables of where the “registration wall” should exist with such a site (which I thought was quite pertinent to everyone in the room) – but was too busy listening to actually type his response.
Paul Gerbino Ã¢â‚¬“ Interview with an Undiscovered Genius
Paul begins by discussing the migration away from print, and the struggles that they faced. He talks about what changed Ã¢â‚¬“ going from being the expert to mindshare expanding to google, yahoo, and other properties. Imagine an 1898 company as “pureplayÃ¢â‚¬Â.
Q:There are two ways that you drive traffic to your site Ã¢â‚¬“ Can you give an overview of each, and the success levels that you’ve had.
A: We view google as friend, vendor, partner, as well as foe for various different reasons. We had to identify what level to make available and how to make the information available. We want to make sure the content is there, but that there is content BEHIND the search. We need to balance discoverability with adding value to the user as a destination.
Q: Is more traffic driven from organic or PPC?
A: More traffic is currently coming from organic. Thinking that we are the only act in town is naÃƒÂ¯ve, and can lead to disaster.
Q: Where is the website revenue derived from?
A: 98- 99% online advertising as a revenue model
Q: What was your experience putting content out for free?
A: We’re looking at partnering with content providers that users may be able to pay per play for. Moving to the free model has allowed us to reach a whole new audience. The average query is in the 5 Ã¢â‚¬“ 6 word range. We live in the long tail.
Q:What do we do once they get here? SES is about driving traffic Ã¢â‚¬“ but we have the unique advantage of deciding what they do when they arrive.
A:It’s all about the landing page. If you have a template that is the most landed on page Ã¢â‚¬“ that’s where you start your redesign. Look at what you can use as a value to get an action, create a bookmark or subscription. 22% users convert to an action.
Q: Anything else about Thomas?
A: If we can do it so can you. Three years ago, pitching RSS to executive staff was extremely difficult. Now RSS delivers 10% of page views.
Frank talks about going from a $25 billion industry to $16billion in less than 10 years.
Q: Why haven’t content publishers embraced the web fully?
A: Putting print into electronic doesn’t working Ã¢â‚¬“ Paul talks about e-catalogs and why they don’t work. It’s an established technology that hasn’t been fully embraced. If you talk to about a trade publication about RSS their eyes glaze over.
Frank thinks google’s mission is to “control the world’s informationÃ¢â‚¬Â rather than organize it. What happens when Google buys one of the large content publishers to the rest of the publishing world?
Paul: Google’s mantra is to do no evil Ã¢â‚¬“ this doesn’t mean they won’t do any harm to your business Ã¢â‚¬“ Are they friend or foe Ã¢â‚¬“ and how? It’s not that we don’t like google, but we are competing for the vertical mindshare.
Frank: We have all been concerned about the google content Ã¢â‚¬“ Won’t google search be “good enoughÃ¢â‚¬Â
Paul: It’s a buyer beware world with content. The challenge for premium content providers is to find out College students don’t buy content Ã¢â‚¬“ people don’t BUY content because the budget is dwindeling. If you want to see where it’s going Ã¢â‚¬“ walk around a college campus.
Frank: You said you live in the longtail Ã¢â‚¬“ I’m not sure publishers can play in the longtail because they haven’t even reached the 80% yet Ã¢â‚¬“ Should premium publishers be thinking of this big markets before worrying about the tail?
Paul: I laugh every morning when I wake up and realize I’m delivering content on sludge pumps and flushometers and get millions of pageviews per day. One things people learn over time is to add words to get a better search result. How much can you put out for free in an abstract or in premium?