E-Media Strategist: 5 Tips to Boost E-media Revenues in 2010
Every media company has different business challenges and business models, but certain strategies can help almost any publisher grow the e-media side of the business. Are they flashy, new strategies? No. Most are boring fundamentals. But in media, as in football, those who best execute the fundamentals are the ones who win.
1. Sell what you already have.
If you sell advertising, take a hard look at your unsold inventory. If you're less than 75-percent sold-out on your primary positions, you're leaving significant money on the table. This is by far the easiest way to grow revenue with virtually no expense and risk. Actions to take:
- Improve your ad sales team (e.g., e-media training, focus, incentive, better personnel).
- Educate your advertisers (more on this below).
- Improve the ROI of your deliverables. (Look at your resell rate for clues here.)
If you sell content, don't be in a rush to sell digital content. Instead, use online to build out your direct sales channel and sell existing print content (subscriptions, single issues, books, etc.). If you do this well, product sales revenues and profits will grow rapidly. For digital content, start by disaggregating or repurposing print content into one-off digital projects and e-books rather than creating completely new content.
2. Don't underprice yourself.
This is still a cardinal sin at most media companies, and addressing it is another easy way to grow online revenue. If you sell print advertising or sponsorships, consider how much you would charge for exposure to a comparable audience in print. How much would you charge for comparable leads at an in-person event? Use fewer, larger ads that cost more; then get advertisers to compete with each other for the limited inventory. And don't let your sales team tell you the market won't pay anything higher. Anyone can sell a brand-new BMW for $5,000, but it's worth a lot more than that.
The same is true for content. Back issues, books and even subscriptions are often sold at a discount online compared to cover price, but that doesn't have to be the case. Treat your back issues and backlist books as "collectors' items." I have seen consumers pay more for a back issue or backlist book than the original cover price. Likewise, I have seen people pay more for a single digital article that can be immediately downloaded than for an entire magazine issue with 20-30 articles.
3. Educate your customers.
I continue to be amazed by how many advertisers and agencies are still not comfortable with online media. Educate your customers about online media with webinars, tip sheets and other tools. Help them with positive critiques of their creatives. And, by all means, provide them with consistent and timely reports on their return on investment with you. As they trust you more and look to you for education, they will spend more money with you.
4. Don't worry about what your competitor is doing.
Years ago, I led the e-media efforts for Windows IT Pro magazine. Seeing what companies like CNET, CMP, Ziff Davis and others were doing drove me crazy. We just didn't have the staff to keep up. Later, I found out that most of these companies were losing money online or barely breaking even while we were bringing in seven-digit revenue online and operating at a 50-percent margin. My point? It's OK to glance at what other companies are doing, but don't let them set your strategy. Keep both eyes fixed on what you do best, how to better serve your customers (readers and advertisers) and how to grow your profits online.
5. Focus your efforts on a few major projects.
With all of the changes in online media, it's tempting to continually go after new technologies as the next big things that will radically transform your business. This "shiny object syndrome" plagues many media businesses these days. Don't fall into the trap! You'll never keep up, and you'll be distracted from going after the two or three key projects that will have a real impact on your business. Typically, these projects aren't sexy and cutting-edge, but have long-term, replicable and scalable value for you, your readers and your advertisers. Identify what these projects are for your specific business and develop tunnel vision until they are completed.
Eric Shanfelt is executive vice president of e-media for Virgo Publishing. He has served in executive roles at Penton Media and Aspire Media and as a consultant helping private equity, B-to-B and consumer media companies evaluate and grow their online media businesses. His e-media background spans 18 years, specializing in practical revenue-generating strategies.