There’s no question that 2018 has seen many publishers make a push to increase revenue from subscriptions and paid content, which many see as a necessity in the face of digital advertising’s many uncertainties. Subscriptions have become the talk of the media industry. Yet most of this talk focuses on upping subscriptions in the consumer publishing space. What often goes overlooked is that many B2B media companies have established substantial revenue streams from paid content and are just as eager as their B2C counterparts to grow this business line.
B2B publishers do face a unique challenge in their paid content efforts. Historically, many, if not most, B2B publishers have offered their content to readers completely free of charge, made possible by the underwriting of advertisers. B2B publishers may need to train their audiences to have new expectations.
Just throwing up paywalls across content that was previously free to access, however, isn’t going to be a long-term strategy for success. Paid content — content people are actually willing to pay for — needs to have a clear value proposition. It needs to help a professional in a specific industry complete their work more efficiently, run their business more effectively, or succeed in their career. And publishers need to be able to directly indicate how their content is useful in that endeavor — or readers aren’t going to pay for it.
Dave Colford, chief revenue officer of Hanley Wood and president of Hanley Wood Media, says that for his brands and audience, the right approach to subscriptions was to focus on data. Rather than simply throw a paywall in front of content the Hanley Wood readers had been getting free for years, they identified the need for more in-depth research and data products readers could use to better manage their businesses. Hanley Wood took the time to talk to its audience and determine which data streams would be most valuable to them and what products the company could provide that could meet those needs. Hanley Wood also considered whether they were currently offering this type of data or if it would be something they needed to develop.
Toni McQuilken is the senior editor for the printing and packaging group.