September 27, 2007
Case Study

How to Launch New Web Publications in 2 Weeks - 5 Steps to React Faster to Audience Demand

SUMMARY: If you miss out on publishing opportunities because you can't react to hot topics or emerging markets fast enough, then this Case Study is for you. A publisher wanted to create new specialty products on the fly and not run to IT every time they needed to make a change.

They now can build a site in two weeks using a templated model for topic-focused sites that combines repurposed content and blog-like features with dedicated email newsletters. Traffic is growing as much as 50% each month, and they recouped their development costs in three months.
The Web offers publishers nearly unlimited options for features or products aimed at niche audiences or hot topics. But with user behavior and industry trends shifting so fast, publishers have a hard time keeping up.

The National Underwriter Company, a division of Highline Media focused on the insurance and banking industry, had developed a few specialty products to capitalize on popular topics, such as long-term care insurance and advising baby boomers. Those sites combined news, education resources and online community features, such as message boards, but proved too difficult for the editorial team to keep updated.

“We had put up some community sites, but they languished there. Any time we needed to change something on it, it was really labor intensive to get it done,” says Marla Reichard, Director E-Marketing.

Earlier this year, after the implementation of a new content management system that offered more flexibility, the marketing, IT and editorial teams decided to test a new crop of specialty publications. They wanted to see if they could capture reader and advertiser interest, while also creating a new model that was sustainable and scalable for future product development.

The team developed a new model for topic-focused sites that combined blog-like features (articles, editorials, quizzes and reader comments) with dedicated email newsletters. Here’s how they designed the sites to appeal to readers and advertisers:

-> Step #1. Create site templates

Rapid development time was the name of the game for the new community sites strategy, so the team first laid out a design and content template.

That template included a basic layout framework:
o A banner-style header with the name of the site
o A left-hand navigation column featuring links to the publications’ sections and a sign-up link for the email newsletter
o A center content panel offering the first few sentences of several articles with hotlinks to take readers to the full text
o A link section at the bottom of the homepage that connected readers to other National Underwriter sites and enewsletters

In addition to that framework, the template also defined standard sections for each publication, including:
o Feature articles
o Quizzes
o Graphics
o Educational resources
o An “Ask the experts” feature
o Bylined content from vendors

The template was built so editors could upload all the content themselves into the framework, rather than having to work through the IT department to update the sites.

-> Step #2. Choose topics for new publications

With a template in place, the editorial team brainstormed potential subjects for the new products. The goal was to capitalize on emerging markets, hot issues, niche topics and audiences that weren’t currently addressed by other National Underwriter publications.

The editorial team made its decisions based on:
o Their knowledge of insurance industry trends and subject matter
o Reader and advertiser requests for content on specialty topics
o Potential audience demographics
o Potential advertisers

Based on those factors, they created two new products:

- Settlement Watch. A look at the emerging area of life insurance settlements, which is the sale of life insurance policies once the owner passes age 65 or 70. “Advisers are likely very knowledgeable about life insurance but not about selling existing life policies in the secondary market, so the content level is more technical,” says Linda Koco, Senior Editor Products and Managing Editor E-Publications.

- Annuity Sales Buzz. A publication targeted at new insurance advisors needing basic information about how to sell annuities. “Annuities are a prime topic for our readers, but we wanted to have a publication that addresses the needs of the newer annuity advisers, who have special content needs that the veterans don’t have,” Koco says.

The new sites were promoted in the Online Resources section of the National Underwriter Company homepage.

-> Step #3. Assemble mix of new and repurposed content

Another factor designed to speed up the development of new sites was the ability to repurpose existing content alongside new features. Working within the templated categories, the team focused on providing industry news, analysis, how-to and technical information.

New content was typically developed for:
o Feature articles
o Editorials
o Ask the Expert articles

Repurposed content included:
o Graphics taken from other print or online publications
o Bullet-point summaries of existing National Underwriter print or online articles, which were posted on the community sites with a hotlink back to the original
o Hotlinks to other National Underwriter articles

-> Step #4. Create dedicated email newsletter for each site

In addition to the new Web sites, the team created Settlement Watch and Annuity Sales Buzz email newsletters. The goal was to reach out to readers and provide links that drove them back to the new community sites, as well as other National Underwriter online properties.

Like the sites themselves, the monthly newsletters also included a mix of new and repurposed content, such as:
o Previews of feature articles, with hotlinks to read the complete article
o Links to vendor-supplied content, such as white papers, offered in the sites’ “Strategies from the Pros” or “Low Down from the Pros” section
o Hotlinks to other National Underwriter articles

Also like the community sites, the enewsletters were promoted on the National Underwriter Company homepage, in the magazines and newsletters section. A link to subscribe to the newsletters was included in the navigation bar of each community site.

-> Step #5. Sell sponsorships for community sites and newsletters

Finally, the team developed a sponsorship advertising strategy to support the new sites and newsletters.

Sponsorships could run for one to 12 months, during which time the advertiser would receive:
o A text or banner ad in the email newsletter
o A link to a selection of their own educational text or multimedia content in the Low Down or Strategies from the Pros section
o A rotating position as the “expert” answering reader’s questions in the “Ask the Experts” section
The two new publications have struck a chord with readers and advertisers since their spring launch. Traffic at the sites has continued to grow, with Settlement Watch unique visits increasing 15% in August and Annuity Sales Buzz unique visits growing 50% that month.

Sponsorships also sold so rapidly that the company recouped its entire development cost within three months -- with Settlement Watch selling out of three-month sponsorships immediately. “We have good, relevant content that’s reaching the right people. Whenever advertisers are excited about new content areas and willing to sponsor it, we know we’re serving both of our customers,” Reichard says.

While not disclosing specific metrics for the new email newsletters, Reichard says the open rates and clickthrough rates are performing on par with their established enewsletters.

Looking ahead, the team is now comfortable that the new model will allow it to easily create new sites and newsletters for hot topics and underserved areas: Thanks to the new templates, the IT department only needs one to two weeks to build a new site. ” “That’s huge for us. The old process took so much longer,” Reichard says.

Useful link related to this article

Creative samples from National Underwriter Company:

tmg-e*media - implemented National Underwriter Company's new content management sytem:

Annuity Sales Buzz:

Settlement Watch:

The National Underwriter Company:

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