In less than 10 years, ITWeb has grown from a small online pioneer to a technology-focused publishing house that dominates its sector. Along the way it survived the dotcom boom and bust, multiple waves of scepticism around the viability of online media, and numerous competitors and pretenders to the throne.
As the technology industry has matured, so has the company. It is a stable, profitable media house with a long and growing list of happy advertisers.
Today ITWeb publishes three titles, a series of annual publications and owns related businesses within its chosen space. It is the most trusted voice in local technology publishing and the first port of call for an audience that ranges from technology professionals to CEOs.
More importantly for the advertising industry, it offers various platforms to reach all the major players in the information and communications technology sector, non-consumer buyers of such technologies and tens of thousands of business decision-makers who also have high levels of disposable income.
Since its launch in 1996, ITWeb has seen many companies in the technology space consistently use one or more of its vehicles for advertising and its renewal rates are among the highest in the country.
ITWeb employs 80 people in offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and boasts a turnover of more than R30 million. In a reversal of normal publishing practice, ITWeb expanded from an online business into ‘dead-tree’ publishing, first with the launch of ITWeb Brainstorm and more recently with iWeek.
As an online-only player, ITWeb was in an ideal position to recognise that online media would not be the death of traditional publishing, as the hype had it in 1999, but was a complementary medium. It also recognised the benefits of paper-based publishing, particularly from an advertising perspective.
The ITWeb site is the core around which the company was created and remains its mainstay in readers, revenue and profit.
The Web site was launched in 1996 – well ahead of the Internet boom – as a collection of information and news about the information technology sector. It has since developed into the default location to find news on the local technology industry and its vast database of all previously published articles represents the single biggest archive of information on the local information and communications technology sector.
Online advertising was relatively slow to take off in South Africa and even as Internet companies reached enormous (and unjustified) valuations in 1999 and 2000, online spending remained miniscule.
In recent years, however, an ever-greater number of companies and media buyers recognised the value inherent in a medium that is immediate, personal, eminently trackable and relatively cheap. ITWeb has seen online advertising revenue more than double in recent years and growth continues at a far greater pace than during the days of online hype.
ITWeb and all associated services are available free to any who care to use it. The nature of the content, however, means the audience is self-filtering. News covered ranges from the financial results of companies in the space, to technologies that drive business, to legislation and regulation that impacts the industry. Casual technology users – home computer users, for instance – are not catered for and find little of interest outside of product reviews. On the other hand, those who make technology buying decisions for companies large or small, companies that provide technology solutions of any kind and investors find it an invaluable resource.
A more general readership for ITWeb articles is found on partner Web sites, such as MWeb, Ananzi, Mail & Guardian and Sunday Times, to which ITWeb supplies selected content.
ITWeb has a monthly South African readership of over 85 000 readers, with a total monthly audience of 110 000 individuals, more than 28 000 of whom subscribe to the eNews newsletters (daily and weekly – see sidebar) and access the site via click-throughs in the newsletters.
These less regular readers are typically those interested in specific new products, are drawn from other business sectors, or are foreign visitors who follow links from news aggregation services such as the Google News portal.
As a community, the audience is quite involved with the site, with many using a feedback option to air their views and major surveys drawing more than 4 000 responses.
Readers are mostly based in Gauteng or Cape Town, with a small number in other urban centres but virtually none in rural areas.
The readership is younger than that of mainstream publications – again a reflection of the industry the site serves – with a large proportion under 35 and most of the rest under 50.
The vast majority of readers are well educated, with at least a technikon diploma or university degree, and the majority speak English as a first language with the balance using it as a working language.
ITWeb readers tend to be technical specialists or at least mid-level managers, often with a responsibility for technology operations or purchasing as part of their job function. They also tend to have high levels of disposable income; in the 2005 version of an annual salary survey conducted among readers, valid responses included a reported monthly gross package of R125 000. They are also, of course, heavy users of personal technology ranging from laptops and cellphones to more exotic devices.
ITWeb is squarely focused on South Africa and international news is covered mostly by way of wire copy. As the technology markets in other African countries mature, however, and as South African companies increasingly operate on a continental scale, coverage of especially sub-Saharan Africa has grown and this is reflected in a growing number of readers from the region, albeit off a low base.
ITWeb is rated among the 15 most visited Web sites in South Africa despite competing for reader attention with general interest and news sites.
ITWeb provides a range of standard online advertising opportunities and some unusual alternatives that allow for brand, product or strategic advertising.
Clickable banners, skyscrapers and buttons are available in various positions on the entry page and many subsequent pages, and can be delivered as static images, dynamic images or in the increasingly popular Macromedia Flash format. Clicks on such advertising can be tracked through the audited ITWeb advertising server, through third-party services such as DoubleClick or directly by the target Web site.
ITWeb also offers various services – to make printing or e-mailing of articles easy, for example – and these are available for sponsorship.
Because of the sheer volume of information published on the site, ITWeb offers several dozen industry portals that carry news on sub-sectors ranging from contact centres to retail technology. These portals attract a well-defined audience and are also available for sponsorship that covers all articles within that area of interest.
They are hosted by ITWeb and are easily accessible to its audience, unlike company Web sites that often struggle to attract any traffic whatsoever.
Press releases published in a VPO are available from the ITWeb front page and included in eNews and are also available via the site search engine.
Nearly 400 companies use the VPO service and this makes ITWeb a default location to look for information on companies in the technology space.
VPOs are available on contracts of six months or longer.
Also available are specific sponsorship opportunities around many niche news portals, ranging from small business applications to outsourcing and consulting services, to mobile and wireless technologies; or around special events and products such as the annual ITWeb Salary Survey, which polls readers to create the definitive guide to remuneration in the South African technology industry.
ITWeb was a founding member of the Online Publishers’ Association and its predecessors, and is committed to reporting the most accurate and exact figures possible to advertisers.
Brainstorm presents a big-picture view of the world of business technology. It is issue-driven and packed with critical analysis that goes well beyond the news of the day. It uses both ITWeb’s team of journalists and freelance specialists and columnists to provide comprehensive coverage of a wide range of topics.
Given its audience, it is also produced with an eye on quality, with particular care taken with its appearance and top-notch photography throughout.
Brainstorm has grown into an authoritative voice in the technology sector and is one of the most respected local monthly business magazines.
The Brainstorm readership overlaps significantly with that of ITWeb, but Brainstorm readers are more likely to be company executives or decision-makers.
Brainstorm offers traditional advertising and inserts, and also produces independent company reports under its own banner that allows for a trusted view of a particular company.
Where Brainstorm can provide an invaluable strategic view, iWeek is dedicated to news and information on a more tactical level.
iWeek has a particularly strong business focus and is aimed at decision-makers for whom technology is part of the process of empowering the business. It considers the trends that affect business and helps in selecting the right technologies and the ideal vendor of technology to achieve specific goals.
The magazine is delivered free but is the only ITWeb product that is limited to a selected audience. Potential readers must have an active involvement in technology strategy, the evaluation of partners, vendors, brands or services, or must authorise procurement. Some 8 000 readers currently conform to these requirements and a further 500 copies are distributed to paying subscribers or through retail outlets.
ITWeb is committed to ensuring the magazine reaches the top 1 000 companies in South Africa.
The various titles – there are currently six annuals in the range – are each distributed to 10 000 qualified readers chosen on the basis of their direct business interest in the issue covered.
Informatica handbooks are a specialized advertising medium but provide extended exposure to a precisely targeted market.
The ITWeb stable also includes a number of other business units developed to address specific needs within its core market.
ITWeb organises and hosts a range of conferences and seminars around topical issues to allow readers to learn from experts and each other. Conferences and seminars are typically attended by between 100 and 300 of the top technology decision-makers from the field in question and video recordings can be made available to a broader audience as required. Sponsorship and advertising is available at events and in related material.
Two specialist Web sites offer additional services to the technology sector.
CareerWeb is a specialist recruitment Web site that deals only in technology jobs, while TrainingWeb provides a listing of technology-specific training courses and degrees, and helps users to select the right one.