Online publication seeks to protect revenue by overcoming blockers
Investopedia didn’t set out to become a subscription- and commerce-focused publisher. But that’s what it’s staking its future on.
Less than six months after launching its first batch of Investopedia Academy courses, the IAC-owned publisher enters the new year focused on dramatically ramping up this nascent side of its business. On Jan. 15, Investopedia will roll out its 10th course, on cryptocurrencies. Continue reading “How Investopedia shifted to subscription revenue with video courses”
With publishers realizing that they can no longer be wholly dependent on ads for their revenue, Purch is getting more serious about selling proprietary technology to other publishers.
Purch — a commerce-focused publisher that owns tech and product review sites such as Tom’s Guide, Top Ten Reviews and Live Science — is profitable. It makes about $120 million a year in revenue, with about 20 percent coming from ad tech products that it licenses to 25 publisher clients, said Purch CRO Mike Kisseberth. Over the next year, the company plans to grow its number of publisher clients to roughly 40, and have its tech licensing operation account for about 25 percent of its overall revenue, he said. Continue reading “Purch is a publisher with a $24 million business in licensing ad tech”
The Economist Films division gets most of its views on Facebook, but like other publishers, it’s turning its attention to YouTube, where audiences tend to be more loyal and engaged than on Facebook. The 20-plus person division began in mid-2015 with a focus on long-form series, like entrepreneur-focused “The Hub,” backed by Santander, and “The World in 2018,” supported by Thomson Reuters. This year, The Economist also started releasing three editorial videos a week, lasting under five minutes, like this on the gender pay gap or this on foreign aid distribution. Continue reading “The Economist’s video strategy shifts focus to YouTube”
Developers and businesses making skills for Amazon’s Alexa will soon be able to accept Amazon Pay and make purchases directly within voice apps from the Alexa Skills Store. The news was announced today during the Alexa State of the Union at AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas. Other Alexa news shared today includes plans to bring Alexa to Australia and New Zealand in early 2018 and adding $100 million to the Alexa Fund for international investment. Continue reading “Amazon Alexa skills to accept payments”
BuzzFeed’s commitment to commerce revenue continues to grow, and as a result, it’s begun pursuing commerce revenue more like a regular publisher might: through search. After more than two years of experiments focused on identity-focused listicles like “39 Fucking Awesome Gifts For Anyone Who Loves to Swear” or “27 Gifts Only Math and Science Nerds Will Appreciate,” BuzzFeed now has 19 people cranking out commerce posts full time. Identity-focused posts are still a staple, but that team, which is part of BuzzFeed’s editorial operation, has recently begun focusing more on search-centric content, designed to respond to queries people make not only on BuzzFeed’s own properties but across platforms like Google and Amazon and using sales data gathered by Skimlinks. Continue reading “BuzzFeed now has 19 people writing commerce content”
The branded content market is exploding. Some estimates peg the market size for branded content at $20 billion over the next five years. When a brand partners with a publisher for a branded content campaign, the brand is buying a few things: the publisher’s storytelling expertise, its influence and thought leadership, and access to an engaged, relevant audience. Unfortunately, getting this audience to interact with branded content articles is becoming increasingly hard. Organic traffic isn’t what it used to be, and branded content specifically doesn’t get much SEO love. To combat this trend, it’s common for publishers to acquire audiences when there is a positive ROI. For editorial content, this means buying traffic for profitable audience development and subscriptions. For Branded Content, it means buying traffic as part of a bundled offering that may include acquisition as part of the cost, or may break it out as a separate line item.
It’s been five years since the daily Skimm email made itself part of the wakeup routine of — now — more than 6 million largely female readers. (Yes, that subscriber number has quadrupled since we wrote about the company a little over two years ago.) And it’s a year and a half since theSkimm app asked users to pay for convenience — not necessarily content. Now, theSkimm (henceforth: The Skimm)’s cofounders, Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin, have spread the company’s product reach even farther. Continue reading “With video and audio, The Skimm pushes further into the daily routines of its 6 million readers”
Micropayments haven’t delivered on their promise to save the publishing business. But publishers are finding new uses for them in the hunt for new subscribers.
Both publishers and vendors are driving this shift, and it’s an early step in a long walk publishers have started to augment their advertising business.
“The focus had been so much on, ‘How do I package my audience to the benefit of my advertisers?’ said Melissa Chowning of Melissa Chowning Media, who helps publishers develop their digital audiences. “But now it’s going to be, ‘How can I slice and dice an audience to the benefit of my paid products?’ I think micropayments are going to be most relevant to publishers from a membership model standpoint.”
Micropayments gained momentum a few years ago, when startups including Inkl and Blendle began offering the opportunity to pay for the content you read by the article. Big-name publishers, including The New York Times, the Financial Times and The Economist, gave them a try; it didn’t cost them much, and it supported the idea that their content was worth paying for.
“We want to take advantage of the opportunity by getting our content in front of prospects,” said Siriliya Nawalkar, international syndication and licensing director at The Economist.
But third-party micropayments — in the United States at least — have flopped. Blendle remains in beta nearly 18 months after launching in the U.S. The company did not make an executive available for comment.
“There’s been no action there,” said one executive that participated in Blendle’s U.S. launch. “We went into it as a test, thinking maybe it helps us get some data points for our strategy when it comes to paywalls or metering, but nothing is happening.”
As a standalone source of revenue, micropayments face several structural problems. Chief among them is Arrow’s information paradox, according to Tony Haile, CEO of Scroll, a forthcoming subscription service that will strip ads out of participating publishers’ sites. The paradox holds that a consumer will not pay for information or knowledge without knowing what it is, but that same consumer has no reason to pay for it once she knows what she’s getting. “After you’ve consumed that information, the value of the information is zero because you’ve consumed it,” Haile said.
Some companies, including LaterPay, have tried to get around this problem by letting users run up tabs and then pay for their consumption later.
Others, like the Winnipeg Free Press, started using micropayments as an addendum to a paywall. The Free Press began selling its content for 27 Canadian cents (21 U.S. cents) per article about two years ago. It still does but now sees micropayments less as a revenue stream and more as a way to see who to target for digital subscriptions.
To date, 10,000 people have used the Free Press’s micropayment system to consume at least one piece of content, and 15 percent of them have become digital subscribers.
“We’re constantly taking the highest-value people out of micropay,” said Christian Panson, vp of digital and technology at the Winnipeg Free Press.
Micropayments are a middle ground for someone who reads enough content to hit the paywall but isn’t necessarily a candidate for a subscription, he said.
“That’s the problem with the typical metered paywall,” Panson explained. “You establish no value for your content. You go from free to $20 right away.”
To ease that burden, some publishers have begun letting people run up a tab before being asked to pay up. Last year, Germany’s Der Spiegel started letting readers read €5 ($5.80) worth of stories before requiring them to register and pay. It sold 3 million stories that way, with nearly three-quarters of the readers that encountered the offer registering and paying when they reached their article limit. Spiegel now pitches digital subscriptions to those registered users.
“[Micropayments] will be the thing that increases the funnel for publishers,” said Cosmin Ene, CEO of LaterPay, which designed the system Spiegel used. “We need to be giving publishers tools to package their content differently. I don’t know if the price the publisher picks is going to be right or wrong. There need to be all kinds of pricing experiments.”
The post In the hunt for reader revenue, publishers give micropayments another look appeared first on Digiday.
This subscription season’s New Yorker tote bag has been compared to a Birkin bag, which, if you are a woman of a certain age and cultural capital, is a very big deal. The bag’s cache offers an important lesson for the news industry—people still like news stuff, even if they aren’t exactly feasting on the […]
A new journal is offering something we’ve never seen before: A cash reward to corresponding authors of papers it publishes. Normally, in the case of open-access journals, researchers have to pay article processing charges (APCs). But Minimally Invasive Surgical Oncology, an open-access journal launched at the end of last year, flips the typical narrative — […]
Publishers increasingly offer agency services, and Quartz has gone beyond making ads to constructing a chatbot for Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
Named Hugo, the chatbot was incorporated into the branded-content series “Machines with Brains,” focused on how humans, technology and artificial intelligence intersect. Those who clicked through to the bot on their phones could learn more about the stories’ topics covered in the series and how HPE creates technology related to the series.
As seen in the video below, users can select topics like “artificial intelligence,” “cloud computing” and “Internet of Things.” Over a period of six weeks, 117,155 messages were served (after users selected topics) and users spent an average of two minutes with the bot, according to the publisher. Now the bot’s distribution has been widened to include Facebook Messenger, where it will roll out in the next few weeks. Quartz will also run retargeting to encourage return users.
The bot has also evolved to mine relevant articles across the web, not just Quartz and HPE content. The topics have widened to include energy, health care and communications. Users can now also type specific questions, a function that wasn’t on the first version. The bot’s new features are already accessible via Quartz’s U.S. app and will be available in Europe at the start of November. Quartz worked with HPE agency DigitasLBi on the effort.
“There is a lot of wasted time and effort in the current [marketing funnel] structure,” said Sean Mahoney, vp group director at DigitasLBi. “The challenge we gave to Quartz was how do you target the right people, not in a shotgun-blast way but in a way that’s conversational and useful.”
Quartz Creative had 12 people working on the bot, including developers, designers, user-experience specialists and analytics staff. “The process of creating value used to be to create the shiniest objects possible. The new model is to create something that might generate real value,” said Brian Dell, director of Quartz Creative.
For Quartz, bots are another way to differentiate from run-of-the-mill ads, said Jay Lauf, publisher and president of Quartz.
“Advertisers benefit because people spend more time with their messaging,” he said, “and from that, advertisers can learn more about their audiences because they’re explicitly expressing what they’re interested in, so that helps marketers deliver smarter, more relevant experiences.”
Publishers’ branded-content campaigns have painfully low renewal rates. One way Quartz has managed to buck that trend is by giving technology insights and research to agencies and brands.
To formalize this approach, Quartz launched the Quartz Innovation Lab in January, where creative staffers spend a certain portion of their time working on projects like this about every six weeks.
The results have helped the creative services team, Quartz Creative, build deeper relationships with existing clients including HPE, sometimes leading to projects that didn’t involve any of Quartz’s media or its owned and operated properties. The Lab is part of an approach to help brands and agencies that’s led to a renewal rate of 90 percent for branded content, nearly three times higher than the industry average, per MediaRadar data. Since Quartz launched five years ago, it has executed over 540 campaigns for more than 150 brands, according to a company spokesperson.
“Content isn’t the thing that advertisers need every single time,” said Joy Robins, Quartz’s svp of global revenue and strategy. “When an agency is looking for something ownable, really specific to a larger theme or brand challenge, we start that.”
It also helps being open to clients’ suggestions. For example, Quartz overhauled the Quartz Index, a product that sprang out of a request for proposal from the financial services firm Blackrock, when Blackrock wanted to renew that product.
But broadly, Quartz is getting its high renewal rate by helping agencies and brands stay on top of technological advances. That can mean doing more than branded content, such as building a chatbot, called Hugo, for HPE.
Competition for branded-content budgets has never been more competitive. The number of publishers offering branded content swelled from 15 in 2013 to more than 600 last year, according to MediaRadar. That buyer’s market has helped keep renewal rates for branded-content programs down around 33 percent last year, according to MediaRadar.
Quartz focuses its research projects, which it calls sprints, on topics it expects clients will be interested in, or that already interests an agency it’s worked with before. Helping those agencies, which brands typically hire to help them think about emerging platforms, businesses or technologies, helps Quartz get to the table first, said Zazie Lucke, Quartz’s vp of marketing.
Over time, the expectation is that these research projects will lead Quartz to strike more retainer-like relationships with brands or agencies, as sophisticated publishers’ content studios are seeking to make revenue flow more consistent.
Robins said Quartz isn’t trying to become a full-service agency, though, because it sees its research and tools as a benefit to agencies.
Jeff Malmad, a managing director at Mindshare North America who worked with Quartz on a panel presentation at CES that came from an Innovation Lab, said that while he keeps numerous publishers close at hand when thinking about branded-content programs for his clients, few third parties deliver actionable information like Innovation Lab’s insights. Asked how many publishers or brands deliver insights that actually go directly into work for clients, Malmad said, “They’re few and far between.”
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