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Jul 26, 2001

Custom, Bespoke, Web Content Sales are Slow but Steady

SUMMARY: A year ago we called custom content a multi-million dollar opportunity. Is it still hot now that the econmy has slowed? Get some sales facts in this article about custom publisher Tramp Steamer.
Although custom content sales have slowed since the heady days last Fall when MarketingSherpa published its Special Report on the industry, Mark Feffer, President and Publisher of Tramp Steamer, says there's definitely room for hope. He explains, "People are definitely moving more slowly. The dollars are under more pressure. But we've closed some pretty good deals in the past six weeks." Feffer predicts the marketplace will continue to "loosen up" after Labor Day.

After spending almost 15 years as an editor working on various interactive projects for Dow Jones and WSJ, Feffer founded Tramp Steamer in 1997. He pitches cost-conscious, prospective clients by reminding them that keeping your site sticky with regularly updated custom content is a lot cheaper than paying a Web developer hundreds of thousands for a complete revamp. He also keeps current clients happy by staying firmly on their radar screen, "We probably talk to each client several times a week."

Feffer charges his clients a flat fee of $40k a year for about five new feature stories a month or $180k a year for about 500 words of fresh content a day. He maximizes his firm's profits by keeping a tight focus on both the topic and type of content he'll accept jobs for. He says, "We develop beats so we can leverage reporting across several clients. We really stick to journalism, we don't write brochures, we don't write advertising."

A sure way to rouse Feffer's ire is to suggest customized syndicated content feeds are as good as bespoke, original custom content. He says, "If you go talk to people at Accenture or Ernst & Young Cap Gemini, they say the one thing you should never do with content is touch it. Just pass it along and filter it. That completely flies in the face of what drives users to a Web site!"

Will the growing amount of free content on corporate Web sites threaten the publishing industry someday? Feffer thinks not. "People want an impartial, authoritative voice, and it's going to take a very long time for a corporation to develop a voice and prove its impartiality. I don't think there are many people doing it responsibly yet, and I don't see that changing the role of the media." We hope not!
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