BlackMonk congratulates Where2Go CEO James Covington for co-hosting the USM Vendor Expo

We heartily congratulate James Covington and his Where2Go team for co-hosting a unique Vendor Expo in association with the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). The vendor expo held last month was part of an initiative undertaken by the State Institution of Higher Learning (IHL) to create more business opportunities for minority businesses.

Thanks to the efforts put-in by USM and Where2Go team, minority businesses in Mississippi will now have access to procurement and sub-contracting opportunities – generated by 8 state universities.

Business owners participating in the Expo got an opportunity to join in the live demo of the Where2Go website and learn how to use its features to tap into the $3 billion procurement and sub-contracting business.

We are proud that a BlackMonk powered web portal is aiding in the prosperity of minority businesses. And, we wish and pray for the success of the Where2Go team in all of their endeavors.

5 reasons why WordPress is a bad choice for your web portal project

There are about 70 million WordPress websites on the Internet – spawning 47 million new content pages each month. And, there are hundreds of thousands of developers and web development companies offering WordPress only services. The WordPress eco system is so massive and wide spread that it is considered a web development platform in itself. But, is WordPress truly capable of powering a full-fledged web portal?

If you ask this to a WordPress developer, he’ll have you believe that WordPress is like potter’s clay which can be shaped into any imaginable object. And sure enough, people have built business websites, community websites, online stores and more on WordPress.

From ground up, WordPress was designed for blogging. So on a basic installation of WordPress, all you can do is add posts, create static pages and activate built-in widgets for social media feeds. The native functionality of WordPress is good enough for publishing blogs and business websites. But, if you are looking at a robust content intensive website with portal like functionality, then native functionality will only take you so far.

For heavy duty applications, developers integrate custom built or third party plug-ins which enhance the functionality of WordPress. And, notable online publishers have spent thousands and millions of dollars on customizing WordPress. Now, this is comparable to hitching a trailer to a small car, when a small truck can serve the purpose more effectively. Any WordPress developer will tell you that WordPress offers great performance no matter what you use it for, but here are 5 points which prove that WordPress is incapable of powering web portals.

1. Not optimized for revenue generation

Web portals are driven by revenue, and they require an infrastructure which allows paid content, ads and affiliate marketing. Additionally, they require a dedicated backend for managing revenue channels and a self-service system for managing transactions.

Officially, you can’t run ads on a WordPress website unless it receives moderate to high traffic. Some WordPress plug-ins provides limited monetization capabilities, but you don’t get an extensive revenue infrastructure which is required for a web portal. What web portals really need is a revenue engine with a CMS built into it, and WordPress is nowhere in the league.

2. Plug-ins work but they don’t collaborate with each other

Most WordPress projects utilize a mix of third party plug-ins, which may have been developed by different vendors. You can imbibe the desired functionality by getting the right plug-in, but how do you make them collaborate? For instance, if you have installed events plug-in and an ad manager plug-in, how do you create ad zones on the events section of your website? The problem with plug-ins is that they integrate well with native functionalities of WordPress, but if you want your third party plug-ins to collaborate with each other then it calls for expensive customizations.

3. Unfriendly back-end for managing add-on functionality

WordPress offers a friendly backend UI for managing native functionalities and creating content. However, third party plug-ins gets limited backend real estate for housing the controls, so usability is often compromised. This results in tedious workflow for people who add content and manage the website.

4. Unavailability of unified end-user dashboard

Web portals thrive on user generated content, and most web portals allow end-users to contribute articles, event listings, classified entries etc. So, it makes sense to have a centralized user management system, and an end-user dashboard through which end-users can manage their contributions.

With third party plug-ins sourced from different vendors, you can’t have a unified end-user dashboard for managing content contributions across different modules. And, content moderation becomes a tedious chore for site administrators.

5. Insecure and vulnerable to hacking

WordPress is by far the most widely used CMS, which makes it an easy target to hacking attacks. In December 2012, over 600,000 WordPress users reported blocked log-in attempts, and by the end of the first quarter of 2013, 3 million plus blocked log-in attempts were reported. It has also been reported that an unknown group of people is attempting to create a botnet of infected servers by creating a vast network of infected WordPress installations.

For web portals, security is of paramount importance, because service failure can affect thousands of users. Considering the security issues, running a web portal on WordPress is a high risk proposal, because it will have a negative impact on credibility of the web portal.

Here is an alternative to wordpress, for building web portals:

Is your CMS geared-up for advertising?

A majority of web portals and info sites out on the web are powered by WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. But, are these popular CMS solutions really geared-up for advertising? Let’s see!

Advertising is OFFICIALLY NOT SUPPORTED on WordPress. However, it offers a monetization feature called WordAds which can be enabled on websites with moderate to high traffic.

If you are on Joomla, you CAN run ads on your website, provided you have a template that supports ads. And, if you want to go a step further and control how and where ads are displayed on your site, then you’ll have to install an extension for managing your ads.

Speaking of Drupal, it does offer an advertising module, but you have to play around with Drupal’s advertising API to integrate your template with the ad management module. And, there is no guarantee that the integration will be seamless.

So, if your content rich information portal is being powered by a popular open source CMS, then in all probability you are not utilizing the full monetization potential of your website.

What’s the best way to manage ads on web portals?

A typical web portal comprises of sections which feature variable forms of content, and within each section content is segregated into categories. So, a good ad management system should allow you to create ad zones at section and category level. This way you can set variable pricing for ad zones depending on the popularity of the section and category in which they are placed.

Roughly 2 months back we released BlackMonk v2.6 – featuring the most powerful ad management module ever. The all new banner ad module in BlackMonk v2.6, allows portal owners to create variably priced ad zones and achieve up-to 60% increase in ad revenue.

The new version of BlackMonk also incorporates a self service ad booking system, through which advertisers can create ad campaigns as well as monitor the performance of the campaign. The self service ad booking system reduces administrative tasks, so portal owners can concentrate on building great content.


6 strategies for Online Publishers for 2014!

With a whopping 400% hike in the tablet adoption since last year and 56% of which being used for reading news; publishers can't afford a moment to waste before jumping to handheld devices.

Since the advent of social media and blogging platforms, publishers have been worried about an extremely low barrier of entry in their field. Now, it seems like anybody can set up a blog and begin posting articles in 10 minutes! Moreover, payouts from display advertisements alone are not good enough.

With changing consumer demand, the strategies of publishers need to change.
Arm yourself with these 6 strategies to keep pace with the consumer trends:

1. Target Mobile, the home screen:

An average person spends 26% of his/her time looking at his mobile. The most common reason cited is the "fear of missing something!” So, the smart step for any publisher would be to get more screen time for themselves on the mobile.

Most online publishers have non responsive websites, not suitable for mobile devices or tablets.

Now the question is, do you want a native mobile app?

There are many platforms that bring third party content from various publishers at one place. Eg. Flipboard.

If you don't want to spend time and money towards creating a mobile app initially, you can utilize such platforms to build up a following for your content.

Later on, once you have built enough readership, you may go for your own mobile app.

But you definitely need a responsive website optimized for mobile devices and tablets. That should be the first thing on the list!


2. Focus on the reader:

Publishers always had the problem of satisfying two masters at the same time: sponsors and audience. Not anymore!

One of the biggest reasons of depression in the publishing world is the deterioration of the quality of content. That's where the bloggers came into the picture.

As the number of publishing platforms has increased, thanks to internet blogging, the demand for content consumers has gone higher than ever!  The first rule of economics, ‘Demand and supply’ will testify that.

Keep the readers happy and the sponsors will follow the lead. The best way is to automate the process of getting advertisements (more about it later). Now, the publishers should focus on creating great content regularly. Now, the reader is more impatient than ever, so regularity holds high importance today.

3. Engaging your audience: The Supermarket Model

Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond and other big box stores understand the fact that the consumers do not have time. There’s something to learn from their success stories for publishers as well.

Supermarket model, as I like to call it, is all about engaging the audience and giving them all they want under one roof. Offer them a buffet and they'll keep coming back.

Here's what you can do:

- Listen to your readers, community:

Nothing beats quality content, but today's readers need more than just that.

They need to engage! Understanding this, websites like Quora, Reddit, Medium has amassed a big audience. Now, the readers want to be heard!
Giving them a community where they can discuss your content, topics important to them or other events is a great option.

- Offer them events:

Events have always interested people. A cool option is to inform them about the upcoming events around them. This will not only excite the audience, but if you allow users to add their own events, this can drive revenue for you too.
If you want to start fast, it's smart to join the affiliate network of websites like Meetup.

- Take their opinion, Polls:

Let your audience poll about hot topics and voice their opinion by just a click!
This will also allow you to gain poll data and people's voice about any occurring.
This can be invaluable for your writers and businesses that want to use your poll for mass feedback.

4.  Join hands with competitors:

Many publishers have been inviting bloggers to write for their websites. It's a win-win situation. It gives the bloggers the platform they deserve and publishers, access to more quality content.
One of the best ways is to allow users to submit articles on your portal. You can surely edit those before you hit publish button or deny them politely. This would get you an engaged audience and more content for your website.

5. Monetization:

Almost the whole publishing industry knows that relying on banner ads alone is a difficult thing today. No more firing against banner ads here. Now, what are the options?

• Sponsored articles: Get paid to publish advertorials and white papers on your website.
• Business directory: Let sponsored businesses make you money.
• Event directory: Let users add sponsored events.
• Classifieds: Let sponsored classifieds make you money.
• Deals and offers: Let businesses offer deals through your website.
• Polls: Let businesses allow conduct polls for mass reviews.
• Contests/sweepstakes: Thrill the audience and make money at the same time.
• Movies and theaters: Tie up with local theaters.
• Affiliate Marketing: Let third party plugins make you money and entertain audiences.
• Banner ads: Old school way to monetize.

Here are deeper insights and smart ways to monetize your website efficiently.

6. Automate; get a good CMS:

You have been running your website well. It has made good money. But, to scale it and go to the next level, you need a robust CMS that gives you the power to easily manage content, users, staff and monetization options.

The time of negotiating with businesses one on one is over. Automate it! And let your website make you money 24x7.
It saves you your biggest asset: time. So that you focus tension free on what you love; creating new content and engaging your audience.

BlackMonk is a robust CMS that allows you to do all of the above and more at one place. Want to know more?

Request a demo, explore the possibilities.

Do you have more suggestions? Did I miss out something? Get in touch with me in comments below.

CMS Expo 2013: Five Must Attend Sessions by Five Prolific Speakers

The 2013 edition of CMS expo and Learning & Business Conference is a great opportunity for stake holders of the CMS community to interact with trend setters from the world of web technology, marketing and content strategy. This year there will be forty eight empowering sessions on various topics including technology selection, coding and communication management. We have identified 5 most prolific presenters you absolutely can’t miss at the Learning & business conference in Evanston.

Margot Bloomstein

Margot Bloomstein is a Branding and content strategist at Appropriate Inc and the author of “Content Strategy at Work.” With over 10 years of experience, she is a specialist at creating brand appropriate user experiences that engage the audience and project key messages with clarity.

At the expo, Bloomstein will deliver a session entitled “Cart Meets Horse: Content Strategy for Content Management,” which is a must-attend for organizations that are on the verge of acquiring a new CMS solution. The session will help you consider a new CMS through the lens of your content strategy and communication goals. Bloomstein will pull-out vital tricks from her goody bag of ‘brand driven content strategy’ to help you determine your message architecture and accordingly choose a CMS solution.

Robert Rose

Robert Rose is an expert in digital media, marketing, social media and SAAS. He has been an advisor to a diverse clientele which includes the US Army, Activision and Intuit. Rose is a regular contributor to Content Marketing Institute and co-author of the book “Enterprise 2.0: How Technology, E-Commerce and Web 2.0 Are Transforming Business Virtually.”

Rose will be giving an inspiring talk on BIG DATA minus the hype. He will speak about the practicalities of BIG DATA and reveal how companies are harnessing the power of big data, right now. In the session entitled “Big Data: Can you Pull Value from a Big Box of Nonsense,” Rose will offer insights into a practical and disciplined approach to establishing a big data architecture roadmap.

Jen Kramer

Jen Kramer is an authority on adaptive design and has created twelve tutorials for A Harvard University instructor, Kramer is known for her no-frills advice on best practices for responsive design.

Kramer’s session on responsive technology entitled “Get Responsive” will present the different approaches to responsive design. The session will also help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of each approach, so you can choose the most appropriate responsive technology for your website.

David Aponovich

David Aponovich is a Senior Analyst at Forrester Research, and an expert on web content management and digital experience technologies. He is the co-author of an upcoming report “The Forrester Wave: Web Content Management for Digital Experience, Q1 2013” which evaluates 10 WCM systems.

Aponovich will deliver a session entitled “Seven Technologies you’ll Invest In for Great Digital Customer Experience,” which will help you prioritize what software to use for offering great DX. Aponovich will talk about the seven software technologies that are must-haves if you wish to enhance your digital experience.

Jonathan Shroyer

Jonathan Shroyer is a web design & development expert and co-owner of corePHP. If you are a coder, you cannot miss Shroyer’s session “Bad Ass CSS, Using (LESS),” which will arm you with all the tips and tricks you need to do more with less code.

So, these are the five speakers you can’t miss at the upcoming edition of CMS Expo. If you’ve any suggestion or would like to add to the list then please feel free to drop us a comment.