Lead-Driven Design – IDG’s Computerworld has a Unique Approach

How Computerworld drives traffic from their print product and supplies enough content to satisfy both users and sponsors

Computerworld’s websites are very different in approach from typical consumer sites. They are not designed to sell products directly. They are not designed to maximize “impressions” on some general target audience. One might see them more as a “matchmaking” service.

It’s easy for automobile companies to find someone who buys cars, but finding someone who is actively involved in the buying decision for a technically complicated storage system is a much more challenging endeavor. What vendors really want are names of qualified buying influencers for their product or service.

Computerworld sees its websites as standalone products—a new and different product—not just a reflection of Computerworld. Less than 30 percent of Computerworld’s website content is drawn from the print publication.

Like the newspaper, the Computerworld websites serve a need for specific information, but they do it in a very different way; and instead of generating impressions, they are designed to produce leads.

Several techniques are used to turn Computerworld’s websites into lead generating machines, but the general rule is to provide more and more specific information in as many formats as possible, including articles, blogs, columns, newsletters, reports, white papers, RSS feeds, video and audio. Most of it is free, sponsored by advertisers.

The amount of information at the Computerworld sites is staggering. Because space is much cheaper than it is in print publications, Computerworld websites can afford to get more and more specific about hundreds of topics.

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To give some idea of the depth and breadth of information and delivery formats available at these sites, here is the list of options that appears on the left side of every page at the primary U.S. Computerworld site.

  • News
  • Email Newsletters
  • Blogs
  • Shark Bait (a user-generated blog/forum)
  • Tech Dispenser (a collection of third-party blogs they feel are relevant to their audience)
  • Knowledge Centers (top stories, special reports, etc. on specific topics)
  • Opinion (articles by featured columnists, letters to the editor)
  • Webcasts
  • Video
  • Podcasts
  • Whitepapers
  • Computerworld Reports
  • Zones (sponsored resource products)
  • Case Study Library
  • RSS Feeds
  • Events
  • Print Subscriptions

If you go to one of these areas, for instance “knowledge centers,” you will find a wide selection of sponsored reports or articles on detailed subjects. Anyone who spends any time looking at these reports is probably a good prospect for the products or services sold by the company that sponsored the information—or provided it.

This strategy finds qualified buyers of even the most arcane products or services. There are not that many buying influencers in many cases, and if you look only at the people who are in the process of buying a particular product or service at any given moment, the number is even smaller.

Computerworld’s websites are designed to draw in all buyers of high technology, sort them out by the products or services with which they are involved, and deliver their name and some information about them (if possible) to high tech marketers. Finding and qualifying high-tech buyers is the plan.

To draw people into this figurative funnel Computerworld starts by using its print publication, to direct people to the website. But it also uses search engine optimization, public relations, and cooperative efforts with other sites. For example, Computerworld.com swaps links with some sites, and provides summaries of its information to others. To get the whole story, the reader has to click onto Computerworld.com.

This strategy produces over 600,000 unique visitors per month. Some are regular visitors, but many are transient, usually looking for one thing.

The Computerworld site is designed to get qualification information from everyone who visits so that they can sell this to advertisers. They do this through offering white papers (sometimes supplied by the vendors), buyer’s guides, email newsletters, and their weekly newspaper.

In all these ways, the Computerworld site is dedicated to delivering well-qualified prospects in highly specific categories.

Finally, the site is also used to sell participation (both vendor and user) in Computerworld events, and to qualify prospects for the print publication.

The U.S. Computerworld website model is imitated abroad, but according to Pat McGovern, IDG’s founder, the United States leads in website use and revenues as a percent of total revenues, except in Korea, where Computerworld is now published only on the web.


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