Penton Plunge?

April 6, 2011

Yesterday a former publishing executive asked me about my write up about traffic to enterprise search vendors’ Web sites. If you want to review those data, read “Enterprise Search Vendor Web Traffic.” The main point of the write up was that I used data, which I viewed as indicative, not definitive. Across enterprise search vendors, the majority of the vendors’ Web sites get minimal traffic. Even the big dogs like Autonomy and Exalead are not pulling at the level of magnetism of some big blogs. Lady Gaga type traffic is just not happening.

The person with whom I was conversing expressed surprise that large companies were getting such lousy traffic. He asked, “How can that be?”

I told him that I would give this some thought and post my observations in Beyond Search. This write up captures the ideas that crossed my mind. I decided to focus on one publishing company, Penton in New York City, as my representative example. The company has a number of Web sites but the flagship is

Compete reports this:

fpenton usage

Traffic is less than 13,000 uniques per month. But more interesting is the alleged data’s indication that usage of the Penton Web site has dropped by 30 percent in the last couple of months.

The question becomes, “Why?”

First, I think that the data are in line with traffic to some other publishers’ Web sites. The information on the Web site is not compelling and, therefore, does not attract the MBA students, job seekers, or competitive intelligence professionals. Penton’s financial performance has been lackluster as well, so the Web site is in line with the overall performance of the company.

Second, I think that more and more company information is becoming harder and harder to find. Forget Google and the SEO marketers’ best excuse for lousy traffic. The Penton site is little more than brochure ware. The substantive information is lacking in my opinion. A quick look at the source code for the splash page shows that the company is using an open source tool, lots of tagging, and stuff like this:

penton code

Tidy code? This bloat can be addressed for major browsers, including Chrome, by making a change to the master page. Without the fix, you get this junk as a cookie workaround.

Third, Penton is not using its corporate Web site with intent. Whoever is the brains behind the Web site is walking in step to a different drummer than the goslings in Harrod’s Creek follow. Now I know that the slick New York crowd is with it, but in terms of creating an information service that ignites excitement, I see a typical big media Web presence.

The combination of these three factors pretty much means that the media giant Penton gets less traffic than many blogs or Web sites of software companies with quite advanced technical software.

Let’s hypothesize. A big media company hires my friend to “turn around” a Web site for an outfit like Penton. The question becomes, “Could this individual make exciting?” My view is that the odds are against this type of change. Here’s my reasoning:

First, the exiting Web wizards, consultants, and poobahs have to be moved from brochureware to content with intent. I think that the rigor required for this shift is going to be too much work. This type of institutional friction is pretty common and is a major contributor to the malaise in publishing in my opinion.

Second, publishing companies are strapped for resources—both knowledge and cash. Further, lacking reliable methods to prioritize and then do the one thing that generates revenue, publishing companies do what I call “fritter away” resources by diffusing their efforts. A good example is the wacky “pay for content” efforts underway at various big media outfits. Usage of sources like Al Jazeera is soaring due to content and price. Why pay when arguably better or comparable information is a click away.

Third, the technical operation to craft a “content with intent” is sufficiently different from traditional content production to be a quite difficult barrier to get over. “Content with intent” in many ways is the opposite of reacting to information to create traditional journalism school type of outputs.

I am going to give my retired publishing guru a call and review these thoughts with him. In the meantime, help out Penton. Navigate to Help a giant firm get more traffic. Who knows? Maybe the firm’s SEO consultant will get the credit, renew his/her contract, and help Manhattan with its unemployment challenge.

Stephen E Arnold, April 6, 2011

Freebie unlike Penton stock certificates


One Response to “Penton Plunge?”

  1. sperky undernet on April 6th, 2011 5:52 am

    I’d ask Tom Duncan to address the Recoded Future’s blogpiece dated March 25, 2011 “Three Ways to Analyze the Future of an Industry: Scanning the Horizon of Auto Technology” in a blogpiece snippet on his Automotive and Trucking section under his name with option to see the whole blog piece on a page containing all other blogs from the other market representatives in Penton “our markets” all treating a different topic. The idea is to address frontally and in depth major competitive products or those getting more attention. The payoff is that Penton become associated with being a thought leader in its content fields.

    Penton could likely come up with unique proprietary competitive looking charts for each field that could be updated monthly or embargoed. Plus user response could be harnessed, even if only for internal purposes, for other things users would like to see.

    Another idea may be to concentrate on a major consumer area like automotive repair manuals. Compare for instance Penton’s Clymer offering with Cengage’s Chilton page. I’d get rid of the tags and keywords and make that invisible to the surfer. I would consider making sure the search engine be effective plus I would allow snippets or even a one-page pdf facsimile where a search word appears limiting this to say 5 pages a month throughout the entire site. This could be with free user subscription with user option to be emailed say updates in his/her field of interest or some non-intrusive way so that Penton might answer further requirements and begin building commercial relationships with some of these users.

    The homepage experience could be defined for every user who would see only the Penton markets each user wants to see and to permit direct drilling down in just a couple clicks. So the challenge could be to enable that on the homepage. One way could be with an online “live chat” human agent. I, for instance, had a very good experience with the live chat agent on that provided an authoritative answer that saved me time. Another way might be with a simple uncluttered interactive flow chart. Simplicity and confidence of findability for the user have to be clear. In general the present site is too silo separate and seems to require too much effort for the surfer to find what he wants. Too much piled up and not sliced adequately for the potential new paying user who will likely give up trying to find anything on the present site.

    The challenge is getting to the other potential users beyond the alleged 6 million and probably a lot of online retention for “inactive” customers. And trying to get a second chance from users who have visited the site just once for probably about an average of 11 seconds.

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