Build products to help decision makers
If your content is not worth paying for you need to figure out how to make it special and valuable, according to FT Group's Head of Product Management at TheMediaBriefing's Paywall Strategies 2011 event in London. We took a look at how one European media brand is adding value to its content in order to increase revenue, and while opinion about whether or not to paywall, meter, or have wide-open content was as diverse as the media brands represented at the event, Conor Dignam, director of digital media and group editor for Emap Inform summed up the general consensus when he said that premium products are key to his company's strategy.
Not-so-magic bullet: premium products
According to Dignam, Emap Inform is concentrating on what audiences want by adding value to its Broadcast brand subscriptions in the form of a database of 3,000 TV shows called TCI. While this data product has only been available for two years, 40 percent of Broadcast subscribers are now regularly using TCI, so there is clear perceived value.
Paying attention to what audiences want takes diligence. Aftonbladet's Elsa Falk shared that while specialized "Plus" content packages and clubs are generating significant percentages of the brand's revenues, its churn rate is also at 30-40 percent. For example, Aftonbladet's fitness club may attract a subscriber interested in how to get a "fight club body," but that reader may not be interested in the rest of the fitness content and will drop out of the Plus subscription the following month. Falk said that Aftonbladet is dedicated to constantly improving its product in order to retain its Plus customers and minimize churn. That takes consistent tweaking and paying attention to online analytics.
Matt McAlister, Guardian Media Group's director of digital strategy spoke about using the MUSE framework for optimizing both audience and advertiser relationships: make, use, share, evaluate. McAlister recommended asking yourself whether or not the things you make are appealing and useful to people. If they are, don't just assume that you are correct – share them in order to measure and evaluate if you are right. Holding ideas close to the vest just doesn't pay off online.
Understanding a different audience
Part of the value assessment process is understanding your audience. “Our Web users are different from our print readers – we need to treat them differently,” Ben Greenish, managing director of Press Holdings Ltd., which publishes The Spectator, told attendees. The Spectator's relatively new wine and book clubs have generated £1MM and £150,000 respectively, and account for 25,000 digital sales and 45,000 of organic digital downloads. "Flexibility is vital," he said, reinforcing Falk's warning about churn.
Big ticket value comes down to having a relationship with your audience, and selling on that relationship. Jeremy Philips, co-founder and COO of StrategyEye, which helps media partners leverage and monetize content, told attendees that thousands of pounds (and dollars) can be made with content audiences use for decision-making, such as data and analysis.
As long as publishers pay attention to what their audiences demonstrate they want and find useful online, new revenue opportunities will follow.
- Diligently measure success (or failure
- Remain flexible
- Experiment with multiple useful online products that enhance your existing content
As Future plc CEO Stevie Spring succinctly stated at the end of the event: "It scares the shit out of me to think of any business model that has a single revenue source."