“For a relatively small publishing house, which has only B2B publications, it’s a very big step and very brave,” said Christine van Ofen, head of product management for haustec.de.
Indeed, entering into the digital marketplace on any level would have required a leap of faith from such a previously print-focussed publisher, let alone the undertaking of a project with such ambitious plans.
Founded in 1927, the Gentner Verlag Group is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany and also includes special interest publishers in Poland, Czech Republic and India. It has always been a family-run business with a firm focus on core topics: sanitary and heating technology, refrigeration and air-conditioning technology, glass and façade technology, photovoltaics, electrical and safety engineering, as well as providing specialist media in the areas of work and prevention medicine.
Above: (left) Christine van Ofen, head of product management; and Robert Reisch, CEO
Here, Christine introduces us to haustec.de and emphasises its strong special interest focus.
“Haustec.de is mainly for B2B users who work in the house technology sector,” said van Ofen. “They may be looking for specific information on products, or news & information that goes deep into the technology of houses, house building, modernisation of houses, changes about standards in house technology.
“We supply those topics whether it be windows, house façade materials, the technical equipment you need in time, sanitation systems, heating, aircon, climate controls, solar panels, and so on. Management issues are also becoming a really important area for our audiences - it goes across all topics and it deals with what the worker has in mind such as how do I deal with my employees, how do I work against burnout, what should my salary be and salary overviews, all those kinds of things.”
In terms of numbers, the title has set out to achieve 200,000 monthly visitors within the first year of its launch, with greater plans beyond that.
“The publishing house is producing all of this content for only one website, but they also have individual websites for the print magazines as well… it’s just that in this particular case it’s specifically designed to be extremely big. Scale is important.
“We have a business plan and a concept which leads us to 200,000 visits every month by the end of this year. We started of course with zero. We launched in October 2016 and we plan to grow even bigger.
“In February 2017 we reached 80,000 visits per month, which for this very niche audience in the digital environment is quite a lot, having only started four months ago,” Christine says.
Content on the website is open (free) to all visitors. According to Christine, most traffic comes from the daily newsletter, and then Facebook and SEO. Speaking of Facebook, according to Christine they already have 10,000 Facebook fans.
The goal for haustec.de is “to go past 1 million monthly visitors in the next few years. We want to be the biggest digital platform for this specific subject.”
We went onto ask Christine how content is monetised, and what opportunities such a platform provides for brands.
“Of course right now we are doing display advertising, but our goal is really to co-operate with big players in the market and do special content areas, content marketing, and sponsorships. We’ve already started doing advertorials and will be starting webinars very soon. It is not really our goal to become an e-commerce shop within our own right – as a publisher we are far more focussed on creating quality content and using it to link our audiences up with our advertiser brands.
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“Right across the whole publishing house we are very data driven, we check and analyse the data success rates every day and look at weekly and monthly overviews as well. We check if the outcomes, from Google Analytics, Sistrix, Facebook and so on are working, and if not we work to make them better.
“What it means is that we are constantly evolving our offering and we have very rich, very niche data for our advertisers. And what we are able to do now, and what we are doing across the publishing house for the other brands, is to drill down and target for ultra-specialised interests. So for example if you are only in sanitation systems, then you can directly address your targeting groups within this content.”
For a new digital platform looking to generate relative scale, it can be tempting to assume that haustec.de has gone for an ‘anywhere and everywhere’ online approach, but as Christine explains, being a special interest publisher, in a niche market, focussed on traditional B2B material, it is a case of finding the right balance between embracing new technologies and keeping the brand relevant to its target audiences.
“In our proof of concept [phase] we checked all of the social media platforms that would work for us. And where our targeting group is - they are not on Twitter - but they are on Facebook, so that is where we go. Another platform we could for example use would be Pinterest, just to try it, but because we produce mainly product news, and our products are often not very aesthetically pleasing or sexy, we have to ask ourselves how relevant that sort of environment would be.
Above: Haustec team
“Video, for example, is another good example of this consideration. We are looking at video just because it is becoming so big for our industry. How-to videos or product demos could work very well on the haustec.de platform, but it has to be done in the right way. So for example we recently attended a fair which was an international fair and the biggest of its kind in our sector. We were there to shoot videos with our brands. This lets people show their new products and just generally introduce themselves, so that our users have videos of the very newest products in these sectors.”
Haustec.de is an example of how a specialist interest title can achieve both relevance and build relative scale online. In focussing so strongly on a digital pure-play, Gentner has had to take a leap of faith from its traditional print publishing business. However, that is where the unknown ends.
Every detail with relation to the haustec.de launch and subsequent implementation has been meticulously planned, taking a measured approach to social and video media and with a firm focus on data driven advertising and wider outcomes.
As Christine tells us: “For the publishing house at large, it’s a big thing we’ve done. Because it’s just digital there is no accompanying magazine. It’s an exciting transition and I’m happy to be part of it.”
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