How The Dolan Company Packages Data into Profitable Products
Launching a paid data product doesn’t always require a publisher to procure large amounts of proprietary data. Sometimes valuable data is openly available and monetizing it only entails making it more usable for readers. At the Data, Insight & Revenue Summit, CEO and president Adam Reinebach explained that The Dolan Company is selling subscription access to databases that are built on publically available data. The business journal publisher also creates data products using historical data from the annual rankings it publishes. The key for monetizing both types of data products is curation, said Reinebach.
“We don't have secret sauce,” said Reinebach. “We don't have these back door relationships where we are getting information that nobody else can get. All we've done is become a resource to pull in all that data and then present it in such a way that there is a convenience factor for the end user.”
Creating a B2B Lead Database from Public Information
One of The Dolan Company’s data products is “Project Center,” a database for construction professionals in Oregon and part of the company’s Daily Journal of Commerce (DJC) brand. The database lists bid information for construction jobs in the state. Reinebach explained that multiple government sites list bid information in PDF format. The Dolan Company decided to to mine these PDFs for valuable information and enter them into the database. Now, a few years later, the database has over 1,000 subscribers.
“It’s really an upsell,” explained Reinebach. “Regular subscription to this product, if you are just getting the publication [Daily Journal of Commerce] and web access, is $200 a year. To add the data product, it’s $600 a year. It has had a very high renewal rate as well.”
Capitalizing on a Magazine’s Historical Data
The Dolan Company also offers a database subscription to Central Penn Business Journal subscribers. The database launched in March and pulls information from annual rankings the Journal publishers around the best banks, startups, and businesses in the region. Reinebach said that his team quickly realized that these lists could be better monetized. “It isn’t just as simple as taking all these lists and putting them on a website, which we already did. The bigger application for the end user [is enabling them to work with the data.] So we put historical data into the product. You can do manual lists, and you can do different kinds of merges.” This database is also an upsell. A subscription to Central Penn Business Journal with the data product costs $249.95 per year, compared to $64.95 for the basic digital subscription.
Advice for Publishers Looking to Sell Data
Reinebach said that after launching a number of data products over the years, he has learned a few key lessons. He said that first and foremost, executives must determine who in the organization owns the data product. “Data is not this kind of thing that can manage itself,” said Reinebach. “You have to appoint somebody to have ownership. In our case, with the Project Center brand, the owner is the publisher. The publisher is working hand in hand with the data entry folks and with marketing to make sure the database is updated on a frequent basis.”
Reinebach also advised publishers to outline the value proposition of their product for consumers. When The Dolan Company promotes the Project Center, it lists the benefits of a regular magazine subscription versus the database-publication bundle. “’You get these six benefits from the magazine subscription, but look at all that you get from the database.’ This has been a really effective way to pitch the product,” said Reinebach.
Finally, Reinebach said that customers expect data to be accurate. Although publishers are used to this expectation of accuracy in the media business, data is held to an even higher standard. “In the news business, you can get something wrong and you can run a correction. You can’t really do that with data. It’s factual. People don’t have as much tolerance for inaccuracy.” Reinebach said that before publishers release a data product to their subscribers, they must make sure the data is sound because Trust is paramount for selling database products.