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    International Trade Forum - Issue 3/2007, © International Trade Centre

    © Istockphoto/J.Caspel

    With an original voice on the issues of the day, from back office operations to trade talks and ethical fashion, the magazine online offers content for a range of users.

    Trade law, trade talks and e-trade have consistently been the most popular sections in the online version of Trade Forum magazine. New favourites include trade-led poverty reduction and fashion, textiles and clothing. They have joined old favourite "how-to" articles for exporters as well as coverage of successful business models from least developed economies and market profiles.

    The "all-time favourite" article online is "Value Chain Analysis: A Strategy to Increase Export Earnings", which originally appeared in our 1/2003 issue. This article has been viewed more than 30,000 times online.

    Alternative angles

    E-trade and e-business marketplaces were already a popular theme at the site's inception in 2000-2001, reflecting readers' appreciation of the hands-on, practical approach of Trade Forum during the dot-com crash, when many in the business community lost interest in the Internet. The year 2000 marked the end of the "eyeballs" era, when fledgling online companies in both developed and developing countries were running unsustainable businesses with the single aim of increasing their audience - or "eyeballs", as they used to call it. When many trade magazines were discussing the end of the online era after the burst of the Internet bubble, Trade Forum's articles on "E-business Marketplaces: A Revolution in International Trade", "Reaping the Digital Dividend" and on ITC's e-trade strategy offered an alternative spin on events and proved popular with readers.

    More recently, the popularity of fair trade is partly due to the coverage the issue has generated in the mainstream media and the awareness raised as a result. While fair trade is a trendy topic, the high amount of media coverage could also mean that content on a relatively small site such as ours could be overshadowed by other sources. However, ITC and Trade Forum provide a unique point of view in this debate. It represents the voice of the producers, rather than middle-class shoppers in the developed world, and this clearly attracts readers even in such a competitive media space.

    The consistently high readership for trade talks is also due to the special angle Trade Forum brings to the table in its coverage of the Doha round of world trade negotiations. The magazine focuses on practical issues and concerns of developing country producers and on helping them find their voice in shaping their governments' negotiating strategies. Furthermore, ITC's partnership with the World Trade Organization provides extra exposure to Trade Forum's Doha-related content.

    © Stockbyte Images

    Spanish vs. French vs. English

    The role of business in the Doha round of trade negotiations has caught readers' attention in all three language versions of Trade Forum online, but similarities end there. The interest of readers of the English, French or Spanish versions is different - possibly reflecting the diverse audiences that Trade Forum reaches online.

    Readers of the Spanish version are most interested in export strategies, probably as a result of the high proportion of readers in developing countries and economies in transition. Some 70% of the audience of www.forumdecomercio.org comes from ITC target countries, with Mexico, Colombia and Peru topping the list. The Spanish version of the 2002 article "Primer for Exporters: International Sales Contracts" has been the article most read so far this year and was the second most popular in 2006, beaten only by a 2001 article on export packaging.

    Export packaging, business tourism and stories on craft trade fairs have also been widely read. In 2005, an article on how ITC's Trade Map service helps exporters ranked among the top five, due to joint publication and marketing of the article with another popular ITC site. In 2000-2001, articles on e-trade and export promotion strategies were the most popular on the Spanish site.

    French readers were most interested in fair trade, both this year and in 2006. Last year, three of the top five articles dealt with fair trade. The second most popular article, "Giving Voice to the 'Silent Majority'", was a report from ITC's business development meeting held in Hong Kong, China in December 2005. Only the fifth most-read page on the French site in 2006 related to practical export development: the 2002 article "International Trade Rules: What Every Exporter Should Know". This bias towards more general trade issues reflects the dominance of readers from developed countries on the French site. Only a third of readers came from developing countries, with visitors from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria topping the list. In 2000-2001, articles on back office operations and Peruvian women entrepreneurs topped the list in French.

    The English site, which accounts for half of the total Trade Forum traffic online, is more of a mixed bag. Just under half the readers come from ITC target countries, including a growing number from China (6%) and India (3%). This may explain the interest in sector-specific content. Three of the top five articles in 2006 and two so far this year have been related to textiles, fashion and flower exports. Somewhat surprisingly, the most-read page last year was an article in which we laid down guidelines for using content from and linking to Trade Forum online.

    The fair trade article, a favourite of readers in French, has also been the English article most read this year. At the site's debut in 2000-2001, articles on e-trade, back office operations and environmental service exports were the most read on the English site.

    Reaching new readers

    In the early years, the relative popularity of ITC News articles was striking, when they appeared among the top sections in each language. This is not the case now. This does not mean that readers have lost interest in ITC affairs, but it reflects the growing popularity of the site among a wider audience. In the beginning, the site had a few thousand readers per month, who were mostly committed ITC contacts, often readers of the print magazine. But now the site attracts a much larger audience of some 130,000 visitors a month - many of whom may never have heard of ITC or Trade Forum - who land on a specific article via a search engine or a direct link to the magazine. More than 320 external web sites link to one or more pages of the Trade Forum web site, sending a significant number of readers. These new readers often come from ITC target countries, which make up almost half of the readership.

    Indeed, the magazine now reaches more readers online than in print. The site is also updated more often: new content is added almost every month. But it is not just new content that catches the interest of this growing audience; many of the most-read articles are from earlier years. The numbers reveal that readers appreciate the archive search function on the web site, which extends to Trade Forum's full content since 1999. (Magazine issues before 1999 are not available online, as the cost of digitizing the content has been prohibitive so far.)

    Access to a large and growing body of trade and business articles has meant that readers come back to the site more often and read more pages at each visit. Readers now visit an average of three pages, which is a fairly high number, considering that many of the 130,000 visitors are casual readers, interested in one or two articles only. The average masks a core readership, which reads five to seven pages per visit, and a casual readership reading one or two pages only.

    Keep reading and let us know how we could serve you better online.

    All-time favourite online articles

    1. At Your Service: Trade Forum on the Internet 
    2. Textiles and Clothing: What Happens After 2005?
    3. Bitter or Better Future for Coffee Producers?
    4. Primer for Exporters: International Sales Contracts
    5. Exporting Textiles & Clothing: What's the Cost for LDCs?
    6. Silk in World Markets
    7. Back Office Operations
    8. Women and Trade: What are International Organizations Doing?
    9. International Joint Ventures
    10. A Country's Competitive Advantage
    1. Doha: How Business Can Benefit
    2. New WTO Director-General Speaks Out
    3. ITC: Helping Business Play Its Part in Trade Negotiations
    4. Making Your Packaging Environmentally Friendly
    5. Bitter or Better Future for Coffee Producers?
    6. International Trade Rules: What Every Exporter Should Know
    7. Primer for Exporters: International Sales Contracts
    8. Selling through Agents and Distributors
    9. ITC Presents: Portraits of Trade Development
    10. Silk in World Markets
    1. Value Chain Analysis: A Strategy to Increase Export Earnings
    2. Primer for Exporters: International Sales Contracts
    3. A Country's Competitive Advantage
    4. International Trade Rules: What Every Exporter Should Know
    5. Making Your Packaging Environmentally Friendly
    6. Selling through Agents and Distributors
    7. Silk in World Markets
    8. Selected International Craft Trade Fairs
    9. Trade Law Essentials: An ITC Briefing for Business
    10. Business Tourism
    This ranking is based on monthly visits between January 2001 and June 2007, compiled by Pressflex Kft.

    Favourite articles by year, 2000-2007

    English 2000 -  Back Office Operations
    2001 - ITC Spells Out its E-trade Strategy
    2002 - Humanitarian and Development Procurement
    2003 - Textiles and Clothing: What Happens after 2005?
    2004 - Happy Birthday, International Trade Forum!
    2005 - At Your Service: Trade Forum on the Internet
    2006 - At Your Service: Trade Forum on the Internet
    2007 - Fair Trade


    2001 - E-business Marketplaces
    2002 - Services Exporting Home Page Takes Off
    2003 - International Trade Rules
    2004 - Building Capacity to Compete in Business
    2005 - ITC Presents: Portraits of Trade Development
    2006 - Fair Trade
    2007 - Doha: How Business Can Benefit


    2001 - Export Contracts
    2002 - How Can Developing Countries Benefit More from the Multilateral Trading System? 2003 - Value Chain Analysis
    2004 - A Country's Competitive Advantage
    2005 - Value Chain Analysis
    2006 - Making Your Packaging Environmentally Friendly
    2007 - International Sales Contracts

    Notes: In 2000, only the English site was available; the choice for 2007 is based on the first half of the year.

    • Diversity: The rankings show that reader favourites vary on the three language sites.
    • Longevity: Some all-time favourites differ from the yearly favourites, because some stories are read frequently and consistently over the years - like coffee and silk - but don't make it into the annual top ten.

      On the Spanish site especially, the most popular article in each year doesn't correspond with the most recent articles.

    • Surprises: One favourite explains how to reprint stories and link to the site. Naturally, we are pleased to see that many people are clicking here, as it shows they plan to take Trade Forum material to new audiences.

      Miklos Gaspar is Managing Director of Pressflex Kft, which has provided web hosting and marketing forwww.tradeforum.orgsince its inception in 2000. He can be reached atmiklos At pressflex.comContributors: N. Domeisen, ITC, and P. de Sousa