The (Re) Focus on Verticals as Integrated Platforms

Eleven years ago — a lifetime ago — we began evangelizing a vision of local media devolved into vertical specialties. These would drive high value leads with better, more relevant searches.

In this light, Google was seen as a perpetual vertical machine, driving every query higher and higher up the food chain. Since then, expectations have been expanded for marketing beyond media. Social media, “presence management,” CRM and transaction management frequently represent higher priorities.

If you are someone like me, a longtime consultant and analyst, how do you “cover” all this? Skift’s Rafat Ali, in a compelling presentation he calls “Lessons in Vertical Media Entrepreneurship in 2017,” says that journalism remains the key (a favorite theme of mine). But he also says that news and analysis needs to be informed and elevated by deep industry knowledge and participation.

Skift walks the walk, starting with Travel, and now moving into the Event Industry. It has also just added a very specialized service focusing on the technology used by restaurant chefs.

In covering verticals, I know from firsthand experience developing our Marketplaces research program (2007-2011) that there is no substitute for getting your hands dirty in the specifics of a culture. In our case, we mostly focused on The Big 4: autos, real estate, home services and restaurants. Each needed deeper dives. While other verticals could learn from their best practices, we couldn’t rely too much on that.

The media companies that support vertical marketing have learned this, too, as they increasingly shift their energy from eyeballs to utility. And they’ve learned it isn’t always horizontal versus vertical. What’s changed is the development of cross-the-board, integrated platforms that may include marketplaces of items and services for sale; search capabilities; and social media programs.