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ClickInsights: Aggregating the Best Content in B2B Marketing

The pace at which content is being added to the web has increased dramatically and so has the value of aggregating the best.  How will the content aggregation landscape change in the next few years? What will the impact on content aggregation be as the semantic web starts to really take off? We have invited Tony Karrer to share his insights on content aggregation.

Dr. Tony Karrer is CEO/CTO of TechEmpower, a software, web and eLearning development firm based in Los Angeles, and is considered one of the top technologists in e-Learning. He has twenty years’ experience as a CTO. Dr. Karrer taught Computer Science for eleven years. He has been the CTO for several start-ups, most notably eHarmony. His work in social media, e-Learning and Performance Support has won awards and has led him into engagements at many Fortune 500 companies. Dr. Karrer was valedictorian at Loyola Marymount University, attended the University of Southern California as a Tau Beta Pi fellow, one of the top 30 engineers in the nation, and received a M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science. He is a frequent speaker at industry and academic events.

Tony Karrer

Website TechEmpower Blog eLearningTech & SoCalCTO  Twitter TonyKarrer

Seamus WalshTopic hubs are critical for 95% of the audience that doesn't have time to track individual sources.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Tony, it is a great pleasure to have you discuss your ideas on content aggregation and visible networking with us. Thanks for finding time out of your very busy schedule to provide your valuable insights to our readers. Tell us about Browse My Stuff and B2B Marketing Zone?
Tony Karrer: Browse My Stuff is an aggregator and filter that allows you to create topic hubs that focus on particular topics. B2B Marketing Zone is a topic hub that I created with Tom Pick that covers B2B Marketing. Tom Pick and I really didn't see anyone who was specifically focused on B2B  marketing. B2B marketers have specific needs and content interests that are very different from consumer brand managers or B2C internet marketers. The goal of the site is to be a way to find the best content from great sources like Tom Pick on the topic. And I partially created it to be able to learn from people like Tom Pick.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Your career/background is very interesting. You have worked in multiple industries(IT, Services, eLearning, Internet etc). How has this vast experience shaped your thinking about business and marketing?
Tony Karrer: It's fun to work across a wide variety of industries and types of companies.  It's surprising how common a lot of the issues are.  And I'm able to draw from my experiences to help companies.  I'm a pretty fast learner and love new challenges, so it fits my style really well.  I also have an incredible network of experts that help me when I need to get smart and figure out good solutions in new situations.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What prompted you to embark on putting together Browse My Stuff and the  B2B Marketing Zone? Describe the B2B Marketing Zone journey so far.
Tony Karrer: Browse My Stuff came out of my experience as a blogger. I would go to speak to a pretty large audience at an event and only a few people in the audience were subscribers to my blog. And I would be saying things in the presentation that I had written about six months earlier. I've found that 95% of the potential audience in any space can't really spend the time to subscribe to individual blogs. Yet as a blogger, I knew the other good bloggers. We had a loose network. And we all wanted to reach that other 95%. So, that really was the genesis of the system.

The B2B Marketing Zone came because I personally wanted to learn more about the topic and wanted to have good relationships with bloggers in the space.  In the world of B2B Marketing, I'm actually one of the 95% who can't spend the time subscribing to individual blogs. Instead, I rely on Tom Pick's curation and the social filtering to deliver me the best stuff.

The result of doing this has been really interesting.  We have new topic hubs cropping up all the time.  I'm learning a lot about aggregation, filtering, long tail SEO. And I believe we've built something with real value far beyond the initial genesis.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What is behind the Browse My Stuff technology?
Tony Karrer: My company, TechEmpower, has built and owns the Browse My Stuff technology.  We are using it with lots of clients and partners at this point.  I'm still deciding what it will be when it fully grows up.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What are goals for Browse My Stuff and the B2B Marketing Zone?
Tony Karrer: There are really two different answers here.  For the B2B Marketing Zone, Tom Pick and I want to create a great site that attracts top-notch B2B bloggers as contributors, and attracts B2B marketers and other executives on the strength of the content.
In terms of Browse My Stuff, I believe that there are going to be a lot of ways this will provide value.  There's so much great content being created – often far better than you can get in a trade publication.  But the challenge is how does this get to the person who needs it?  How does it get filtered?  Topic Hubs are part of the answer to that. 
Because of the SEO effect and the smart aggregation and filtering, I believe this has real value to:

  • Associations, Nonprofits and Causes in that it can bring together existing, but scattered content.  It can use member activity to help filter.  Provide a valuable resource to members.  And attract new visitors.
  • B2B and B2C Advertisers and Social Media Marketers can use it to bring together various content sources from their own sites or from related third party sites, to provide a rich set of content that will attract new eyeballs.  It also is a great vehicle for blogger outreach.  It allows you to become the hub in a space very quickly.

Ambal Balakrishnan: Who is your poster child (most popular topic hub) for Browse My Stuff?
Tony Karrer: It's the eLearning Learning site.  This site gets about 60,000 visitors a month and is constantly growing subscribers.  It's also the farthest along in terms of attracting Curators Editors and Researchers.  But I'm also very happy about the results for Develop Mentor and Fantasy World which both generate significant and valuable traffic for those B2B and B2C sites.  And with Southern California Tech Central which generates great traffic for that association and the associated bloggers.  Whoops and of course, the B2B Marketing Zone.  Wow, that was almost like forgetting your wife when you are getting an award and thanking people. :)

Ambal Balakrishnan: How do you recommend marketers engage in interesting conversations with prospects and customers? 
Tony Karrer: What's been really interesting for me personally as I've used social media to build my reputation and reach/serve customers is that I'm able to first and foremost think of this as an extension of natural conversations that I would already have.  Recently, I've started making this even more explicit with my concept of visible networking.  If I just take and make my conversations visible, then it not only helps the people I'm talking to, but it helps to build my network, grow my subscriber base, etc. And if you don't believe me, take a look at Tom Peters and Seth Godin (who know a little about marketing) talking about blogging in Nothing More Important in my Life Than Blogging.
What's really required then are people who are interested in learning, engaging in the conversation.  That might not be a pure marketing person.  Instead it may be someone from product management or technology.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What upcoming challenges with Browse My Stuff keep you awake at night?
Tony Karrer: What keeps me up at night is that every time I turn around, I find new places where Browse My Stuff adds value.  However, I've not really decided where I'm going to take it.  I'm grappling with a few different business models.  And trying to decide what will make the most sense.  But I'm convinced there's high value and there's some real differentiation.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What are you 3 predictions for how content aggregation will happen in 2010 and beyond?
Tony Karrer: The challenge is simple.  There are way too many different content creators for any of us to really be able to find and keep track of it all.  Topic hubs with their aggregation and filtering are critical to making sense of it – especially for the 95% of the audience that doesn't have time to track individual sources.  Thus, I think we are going to see all kinds of new forms of aggregation and filtering.  As the semantic web starts to really take off, this will get more interesting.  And I believe that the real-time web is also going to have an impact.  But all of this just continues to add to the complexity and the need for content aggregation.

Ambal Balakrishnan: What kind of projects (both professional and personal) are you involved in when you are not writing or blogging, speaking, consulting or building your business?
Tony Karrer: I spend most of my time working with either very large companies on their use of technology to improve human and business performance or as an Acting CTO in Startups.  Right now I'm more busy with startups.  I generally have 3-5 active at any one point in time.  As I'm writing this, I'm about to sit down with an early stage startup that's looking at a B2C play that has eLearning aspects to it.  They are not a client, but I think they have high potential.  Fun stuff. Read my post: How I Spend My Time. :)

Ambal Balakrishnan: Tony, thanks for taking the time to sharing your insights with us.
Tony Karrer: Thanks Ambal. I welcome our continued conversation.

You can subscribe to B2B Marketing Zone here.

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More Stories By Ambal Balakrishnan

Ambal has robust 17+ years experience working at and partnering with high-profile technology companies in both B2B and B2C marketplaces building scalable, reliable, high performance products (both hardware and software) for business with multi-billion dollar in annual revenue. She has done various roles that includes engineering, program management, business development, strategy and marketing for premium and fast growing product divisions at Cisco, Telecordia (prior name Bell Labs) and strategic marketing consulting firm ClickDocuments. At Cisco, she focused on world wide marketing and positioning of Cisco's Cloud & Data Center switching business. She brings both strong engineering & marketing skills with verticals experience from many different industries. Ambal received her Masters in Computer Science from Purdue University and an MBA in Marketing, Strategy and Entrepreneurship from Wharton University of Pennsylvania. Ambal is an avid reader and hiker. Her hiking pursuits have taken her to several mountains including Mt. Whitney at 14,500 feet (which she managed to climb in 1 day). Ambal lives in Austin, TX with her family of 3 boys (that includes her husband!) and a border-collie+lab mix dog named Rainbow.