CFE Media's Rourke discusses life after Reed Business Information
By Matthew Schwartz
Steve Rourke is co-founder of CFE Media, a new b-to-b media company he formed with Jim Langhenry. Both Rourke and Langhenry were previously group publishers at Reed Business Information. The duo acquired Control Engineering, Consulting-Specifying Engineer and Plant Engineering from RBI in April. (CFE's name is short for Content for Engineers.)
Prior to launching CFE Media, Rourke was group VP-general manager of RBI's DM2-DecisionMaker and hospitality publishing brands. He talked with Digital Directions about what CFE Media has in store.
Digital Directions: What are your top priorities technology-wise?
Rourke: As a startup that is already servicing a market, we have a number of short-term and longer-term technology priorities that are intricately related. In the short term, it is imperative that we get back to providing a solid technology platform and the content and delivery mechanisms that best serve our audience and customers. In order to keep our target audiences engaged and coming back, we'll need to have a long-term technology platform and strategy that allows us to quickly develop and deliver new products that enhance the value of what our brands deliver to the audience. The technologies we implement in the short term will need to become functional quickly, yet be flexible and extendable enough to deliver on the many new technology-related products and services promises we will be making in the future.
DD: What have been the biggest challenges in rebuilding the websites of the various brands in your portfolio?
Rourke: Two areas: First, understanding what we were provided by RBI, which included fully understanding the quality and depth of the technological assets, such as subscriber lists, content and layout details. Second, understanding the capabilities of the new systems included really digging into the capabilities of the new Web platform, mapping our highest value content assets into the new system and prioritizing framework options and products for the future. What we found was that understanding all the pieces of the RBI content and work flow took longer than expected, and updating our perspectives of what really could be accomplished with a whole set of new tools was also more time consuming than expected. But our team completed most of the work by the end of June, and we're now planning the launch of several new products and services for our websites over the next couple of months.
DD: What kind of system is the company using and how many vendors does it entail?
Rourke: We decided early in the process that a streamlined work flow, including fewer vendor partners, would be necessary given the size of our organization and our desire to build a new content and publishing model. We also decided that our technology systems should be built on open source, be component-based or modular, use SaaS technology, if possible, and provide our internal personnel with basic training to make most of the system changes. ... We have many technology vendors that we use to fuel the business. However, in terms of the Web offerings specifically, given the open source platform, the thousands of potential extensions and our ability to make many of the changes ourselves or through a myriad of third-party partners, we chose one key vendor, GCN Publishing. The option of trying to combine and manage related but different systems from a print-oriented fulfillment center, a website developer and an e-newsletter management/deployment vendor, was daunting for a startup.
DD: How is the content management system set up?
Rourke: The Typo3 content management system is an open source system that has more than 300,000 installations with more than 4,600 extensions worldwide. We liked the idea that as an enterprise-class offering, we will be able to use Typo3 in many new areas. For example, we decided recently to look at new plug-ins or extensions and quickly found several that make perfect sense for our audience and customers.
DD: What do you think CFE's opportunities are online in terms of better serving readers and advertisers?
Rourke: Huge, and that's essential given the state of the industry, audience and technology trends. The days of a publisher having internal teams of developers developing new custom modules and using multiple API's and code to integrate many expensive platforms and systems are coming to an end. The future will allow publishers to get back to the basics of really working with, and understanding, their target audience segments in terms of content needs and desired delivery.