Wednesday, July 26, 2006

From Ecommerce to Destination Content: ECNext's Manta Builds Up a Broader Base of Content

When ECNext introduced its Manta portal for business intelligence report sales last fall it enjoyed rapid growth that translated into both strong ad revenues and healthy sales of reports from Dun & Bradstreet, Datamonitor and other key sources. But how do you transition from an search engine placement service for in-and-out report sales into a service that can help users to linger and click a little more on the merchandise? The answer for ECNext: bring more destination business content into play. The announcement of Manta's addition of company profile information on pages that make company reports available for sale highlights the importance of having an ecommerce environment that is not segregated from a media environment.

Landing pages for companies covered by Manta now include by default basic information such as location, phone numbers, industry codes and lines of business and a thumbnail Google map. Those who go through a quick registration process get additional content such as year of incorporation, annual sales, number of employees and so on. In both registered and non-registered versions a scroll-down brings one to the reports available for sale through ECNext's ecommerce capabilities as well as to related company links.

The registration-enhanced version does a somewhat better job than the default version of leading one to the reports for sale, but having a default version that puts important information on the page that can act as in-line metadata for search engines should improve Manta's ability to appear relevant in search results to draw in more registrants. Both default and registered versions are significant enhancements for Manta that should drive both ad revenues and report sales. Manta is plying the ground between free yellow pages services and premium online business information services such as Hoover's which mix a media model with a subscription model for most of its content access.

By skipping the subscription component Manta suggests that it's possible to build a business information publishing strategy that can appeal to more situational users who generally need a much lower level of service for business information but who are willing to spring for specific content as circumstances dictate. That seems to fit the profile of many business information users today, so we expect Manta to have a good level of success with this strategy. While it may not yet add up to a business that will compete with a Hoover's-scale presence any time soon it's a good move to help ECNext keep potential rivals at bay as they develop a unique combination of business information services to appeal to a crowd that's looking at a broad array of businesses to fulfill a broad array of motivations.
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