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Conductor Says It Wants To “End” Ads And Turn “Web Presence Management” Into A Real Thing

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Conductor first built its business (and raised $35 million in venture capital) by helping companies improve their search engine rankings. Now it’s pursuing broader ambitions with the launch of a new product, and some new catchphrases, to go with it.

The big goal, according to co-founder and CEO Seth Besmertnik, is to “end paid media.” He pointed to the company’s studies showing that most traffic comes from non-paid channels like search and social media, while advertising, on search and elsewhere, accounts for most of the spending.

“Marketers have built up this incredibly aggressive addiction to paid media,” Besmertnik said.

It would be better, he argued, to invest in a new category that Conductor appears to have coined — “web presence management.” It’s a broader conception of search engine optimization that encompasses other forms of non-advertising promotion, like social media and content strategy.

In other words, he’s hoping to draw attention away from all the different forms of advertising that companies are paying for, and to direct it toward tools like Conductor’s, where companies can try to promote their content on search, on social networks, and on their own websites (all areas, Besmertnik said, that people who used to focus exclusively on SEO are now having to learn) without needing an extra boost from ads.

The phrase itself might sound a little generic, but when I Googled it a few days ago, it’s only been used on a few scattered websites. Besmertnik said that as he talked to SEO managers about the idea, they started to embrace it and even change their titles, a claim that seems to be borne out on LinkedIn.

When I suggested that he was trying to give the tired old title of “SEO manager” a facelift, Besmertnik countered, “It’s not a facelift. It’s really becoming the epicenter of the marketing department.”

Today’s announcement isn’t just about trying to make fetch happen. Conductor is also announcing its Web Presence Management platform. To some extent, the product is giving a new name to work that Conductor has already done to expand beyond SEO with social media and content features, but Besmertnik said the company is introducing new tools today, too, like workspaces where teams across a company or campaign can collaborate.

And just to be clear, Besmertnik doesn’t actually expect advertising to go away. He compared his efforts to Salesforce.com’s declaration that we were seeing “the end of software” — it may have been hyperbolic, but it also attracted attention and helped people think about the industry in a new way.

Conductor: End of Paid Media from Conductor on Vimeo.