A Success Story: IEEE GlobalSpec

The subsidiary is helping IEEE reach practicing engineers worldwide and forge ties with high-tech companies

15 September 2017

It’s been a little more than a year since IEEE acquired GlobalSpec and its Engineering360 platforms. Because you are a stakeholder in IEEE and its future growth and success, I want you to know that the decision to bring the company and its team of 170 into the organization was a good one.

Without question, IEEE enjoys a stellar reputation worldwide in the vitally important realms of technical research. Its more than 423,000 members lead in the discovery, refinement, and advancement of technologies, and look to IEEE as a trusted voice in complex times.

That unrivaled leadership role is well complemented by GlobalSpec, which extends IEEE’s reach into industry and helps us engage with important new markets and opportunities.

Founded in 1996 by four engineers from General Electric, GlobalSpec began as an online, specification-based component discovery tool. It later expanded well beyond specification search into its current form: offering a complete suite of digital media solutions for manufacturers, distributors, and service providers.

A critical strategic goal for IEEE has long been to position itself as relevant to industry—which has sometimes proven elusive. But IEEE GlobalSpec, as the company is now known, offers IEEE and its members a dynamic, flexible online platform through which to reach practicing engineers everywhere.

Every day, the IEEE GlobalSpec database of nearly 100 million technical documents, 200 million data sheets, 200,000 suppliers, 82,000 product announcements, 63,000 catalogs, and 835 specification guides offers answers and guidance to industry-based engineers, technical professionals, manufacturers, distributors, and service providers who are directly involved in technical research, product design, and purchasing.

The IEEE GlobalSpec platforms reach more than 8 million registered users worldwide. Users search for industry standards and patent information, find reference materials, and review product data sheets. Customers advertise with us to reach this enviable user constituency.

A few numbers help to illustrate our market reach. Engineering360 has 1.9 million unique visitors each month who view 5.4 million pages across our array of resources. During 2016, IEEE GlobalSpec produced more than 130 webinars, which provided our webinar sponsors with over 80,000 contacts with whom to develop mutually beneficial business relationships. Through July of this year, we booked more than 180 webinars, and we are on track to produce more than 275 by year-end, including dozens for IEEE.

Almost 1 million subscribers receive at least one of the 160 email alerts that IEEE GlobalSpec creates to keep readers across the profession informed about product advancements. They also read engineering news and analysis and subscribe to one of our targeted and relevant newsletters, which number more than 60. Technology is in our DNA and every facet of our business.

So what do IEEE GlobalSpec and its Engineering360 platforms offer? At a practical level, the platforms are used to research, compare, and price components that are specified by engineers and allied professionals. Engineering applications for search results can include product design for aerospace, food packaging, energy systems, and personal electronics products. But there is much more to IEEE GlobalSpec than just component and specification search.

Engineering360 offers news headlines and analysis on its website. Our articles are incorporated into one or more of the numerous IEEE GlobalSpec newsletters that are published weekly, monthly, and quarterly. Our newsletters help drive a steady flow of readers back to our Engineering360 site, where they engage with advertisers, search product and service guides, download datasheets, and research and buy standards from the IEEE Standards Association and other organizations. Our newsletter production team is now responsible for ad insertion, packaging, and delivering all IEEE Spectrum’s newsletters. Also, the IEEE Spectrum and IEEE GlobalSpec editorial teams collaborate to produce custom content for sponsors as well as content for the IEEE and Engineering360 editorial websites.

With our unrivaled reach into industry, IEEE GlobalSpec pursues profitable business-to-business digital media advertising opportunities with some of the most progressive engineering, manufacturing, and supplier companies in the world. Through these arrangements, our writers, marketers, engineers, and communications professionals help these firms develop and communicate thought leadership messaging to their key markets.

Texas Instruments, Mouser, and Epilog Laser are among the more than 1,500 companies that are IEEE GlobalSpec customers. They buy display advertising on our websites and in our newsletters, contract for content-rich webinars delivered by IEEE GlobalSpec producers, and purchase custom content tailored for their market and message. A recent example is a $300,000 sponsorship agreement for the IEEE Young Professionals initiative. The sponsorship includes all IEEE electronic communications channels such as its website, newsletters, and IEEE.tv targeted to the Young Professionals group. There are also online and in-person events where the sponsor will be featured, tying IEEE’s support of the young professional to the sponsor’s value proposition in offering best-in-class products to solve IEEE members’ design challenges.

Our customer base is growing, up 6 percent since the acquisition, with a focus on small and medium businesses. This market segment comprises a good opportunity for expanding IEEE’s reach into industry. It is a large global addressable market, representing a vast cross section of engineering service organizations; manufacturers of components, products, and equipment; and distributors that need a technically savvy marketing partner to help raise awareness of their goods and services to the practicing engineers who influence and make purchase decisions.

As with IEEE, ongoing education and training are essential offerings from IEEE GlobalSpec. Work is underway to integrate an option to access IEEE Xplore content into Engineering360. This initiative, planned to launch at the end of this year, will help expand IEEE Xplore access to practicing engineers the world over. A second collaborative effort will integrate IEEE GlobalSpec datasheet and product guides as part of a subscription-based IEEE telecommunications portal that is under development.

We all realize that today’s millennial is tomorrow’s buyer and IEEE member. The team at IEEE GlobalSpec works across the IEEE organization to develop and deploy social media, video, and other communication vehicles to engage this important constituency.

Video, in particular, offers potential to grow audience and advertising revenue. IEEE GlobalSpec has its own video studio and production team, which has been producing a weekly engineering news wrap-up for a few years. Since the acquisition, this venture has expanded with a variety of in-house and externally produced videos hosted on our websites, all of them providing relevant and meaty content to engage our engineering audiences.

Video is gaining traction and is an important facet in delivering outstanding and pertinent content in a way that audiences increasingly expect. Our video views soared from 5,000 per month in June 2016 to 30,000 a year later. Hours of videos watched rose fivefold in the same period. And the number of unique hosted videos almost doubled, to 350.

IEEE GlobalSpec is helping IEEE content platforms and media offerings deliver successful products, and we work to monetize business opportunities where appropriate. We manage the advertising—inclusive of production, marketing, and selling—that you see in IEEE Spectrum and several of IEEE’s society publications, collectively referred to as IEEE Media. Two benefits of this arrangement are that the audience opportunity for IEEE Media is expanded significantly with a concentrated industry focus, and IEEE GlobalSpec returns a royalty to IEEE in the form of a percentage of sales revenue.

Additional opportunities exist for collaboration between IEEE GlobalSpec and IEEE, including ventures such as an expanded use of video, online training and certification, and a deeper use of analytics to enhance audience experience and deliver more relevant content.

IEEE GlobalSpec delivers an unparalleled depth and quality of relevant content critical to the worldwide technical community. As we look ahead, it is clear that IEEE GlobalSpec is destined to drive new research efficiencies and productivity opportunities for users and customers alike by harnessing powerful insights and expert analysis, including specifications and sustainable business relationships with industry.

With the acquisition of IEEE GlobalSpec, IEEE has accelerated the solidification of its relevance in the lives of all engineers and technical professionals, and the continued strengthening of its stellar reputation.

Patrick D. Mahoney is president and CEO of IEEE GlobalSpec.

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