Vortal Content: Eyes on the Emarketplace Prize

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Some of the site's content is supplied by the syndicator YellowBrix, but Transora has made sure it's packaged attractively. When you pass your cursor over headlines in the news section, for example, summaries of articles pop up in a box on your screen.

A company that has built a marketplace in conjunction with an online trade journal is Houston-based PennEnergy, which has its roots in Oil & Gas Journal Online. The company's Oil & Gas Journal Property Exchange and Oil & Gas Journal Equipment Exchange experienced strong growth throughout 2000. The online journal is kept separate from the exchanges, because "it's important from a neutrality standpoint," noted Paul Westerfield, vice president of marketing for PennEnergy.

He added that the staff of the journal, which in 1996 was one of the first publications of its kind to go digital, "actually reengineered the way we built news for a weekly print publication to maximize its value online. So, rather than being repurposed print data, we converted our news staff so all our news is built throughout the day online. For the print publication, we take certain pieces and add an analytical look for reporting in the weekly print magazine, so it's a nice marriage between print and online communities."

Oil & Gas Journal Online went through a major overhaul in May 2000. The redesign resulted in a larger editorial staff with ten full-time editors and thirty stringers reporting news from around the world. A content management system from Vignette allows breaking news to be posted online faster. The site also established a strategic relationship with a newswire service that allowed it to provide an even greater selection of breaking global news.

While many Web sites have seen dramatic declines in online advertising, sales last year on Oil & Gas Journal Online more than doubled from the 1999 numbers. The site sold 98% of its ad inventory for 2000. Usage also grew significantly. From January 2000 to January 2001, total monthly page impres- sions more than doubled and unique users increased by more than two and one-half times.

Westerfield pointed out that the site's success is due to both its cutting-edge approach to online news and it's commitment to traditional editorial procedures. "Many early portal sites were just a compendium of mass amounts of data that users could search," he said, "and I think we lost sight early on of the value of the editorial process, which really is a culling process to determine what's of the greatest interest to a community's users or readers.

"That's so important, because people have such a time crunch today and it's very difficult for them to look through mountains of data. So, the old-fashioned editorial processes of culling, determining appropriateness of material, and commenting on the value of the material is still critical to build a strong relationship with the user and to bring them back on a regular basis."

Bringing users back is, of course, the overarching strategy of most Web sites, and as all players in the vortal marketspace have found out, it's a goal best achieved through the often tricky process of developing the right mix of content, community, and commerce.

Companies Mentioned in this Article:
BizProLink Network
Industria Solutions
Oil & Gas Journal Equipment Exchange
Oil & Gas Journal Online
Oil & Gas Journal Property Exchange
Ventro Corporation
WEGO Systems
Yahoo! Industry Marketplaces

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