20 Revenue-Generating Ideas
With print-dollars declining for many, and "digital dimes" not necessarily filling in gaps left by the recession and shifts in marketing spend, it is quickly becoming an era of reinvention. Magazine-centric brands are expanding on strong foundations established by print roots and coming up with new ideas to serve their audiences while generating new revenue streams.
Publishing Executive spoke with executives whose companies have launched new products and services to boost the bottom line while building on the relationships with their customers—both target audiences and advertising clients. Here are 20 of their successful revenue-generating ideas:
From Frank Anton …
Hanley Wood LLC
Hanley Wood develops magazines, websites, e-newsletters, exhibitions and conferences, and custom marketing and data services that support builders' information needs.
1. Host "mini" trade shows.
"Our biggest new revenue-generating idea is called ProShow'12. It is, in effect, a mobile, mini-trade show—our sponsors will have their building products moved around the country (to 20 to 25 major housing markets) in a truck caravan. The caravan will stop at large lumberyards (we're working with a major lumber yard chain), where the trucks will be unloaded, and exhibits, a stage, food-service areas and construction demo sites will be erected under a tent. Local contractors who attend will get to see new products, earn continuing-education credits, enter sweepstakes for products and a fully outfitted work truck, enjoy dinner and even get their trucks washed. (We'll have a mobile "car wash" set up as well.)
We expect every event to attract 300 contractors or so, maybe more in larger markets. Sponsors will pay a participation fee. We are budgeting to generate some $2 million in new revenue."
From Michela O'Connor Abrams …
Dwell Media's website explains that "Through a rapidly expanding offering of media platforms, Dwell inspires its community with smart and thoughtful ideas for modern living."
2. Sell your expertise as data/forecasting services.
"… We set out 10 years ago to function almost as a research company. ... One of the things we wanted to launch in 2010 was the Dwell Insights Group, which is … a forecasting company, a division of Dwell run by David Cobb, all for the purpose of backing this [research project], 'New Face of Affluence,' [an examination of the buying habits of affluent consumers], which we studied in March 2010 and restudied in March 2011 to look at brand affinity and admiration, and values and reasons to purchase and why. And now we actually have a whole consulting piece of that group with several Fortune 500 clients.
The point being that because the internal discipline of the company was continually serving and researching and understanding in every way possible this community that we serve, … it really piqued our interest, and that's why we're also now consulting to other major brands. There are 10 that we're doing special brand value scorecards for, which is a product we've developed.
… It's been phenomenal to take an internal discipline and turn that into a profit-making platform."
3. Take your "publication" regional and on tour, and partner with regional publications.
"[Another of our platforms is] … the home tours that we … have been doing for years in Los Angeles. They are now in Marin County, and we will be announcing three additional cities. Each of those comes with a mini magazine—not only about the homes, but about the area and community, Marin County, Los Angeles, East and West, etc. In L.A., we do not have a publishing partner. In Marin, Marin Magazine is our partner. We're talking now to partners in the cities, so we're considering [options] for our 2012 tour. …Our publishing partner will put our mini-magazine in their local magazine. So in San Diego, it might be San Diego Home and Design. We have such a successful partnership with Marin Magazine, so we're looking to replicate that."
4. Expand digitally across all platforms.
"Then digitally, we've got Dwell.com, Dwell on the tablet with Zinio, we've got Zumobi (our partner on mobile), we've just launched our beta on Flipboard, and we're also working with Google on a new platform and product."
5. Consider branded, ancillary product opportunities.
"We have Dwell products—a line of Dwell-branded ceramic tiles by Heath Ceramics. … We sell a beautiful lounge chair, which was the result of a design competition. … That's a partnership with Blu Dot [furniture retailer].
We also have Dwell Prints done by certain artists in limited edition … for sale on Dwell.com. There have been myriad products. But we've treated it thus far as a limited-edition collection …, not mass licensing. … And we are going to have an announcement around e-commerce this quarter with partners involved."
6. Dwell on "experience" events.
"We have Dwell on Design …, the second-largest design event in the country. … We have 20,984 audited people at [the] event in Los Angeles. L.A. is the permanent home of Dwell on Design, but we're also looking at other markets. … We've done much more the European-feeling of a show, not a traditional trade show where you have people walk up and down the aisles and scan your badges. It's much more of an exhibition and an experience, with 120 different content tracks. We build theaters on the floor of the convention center. The whole space is designed like you're walking through museum exhibitions and neighborhoods. We build five homes, and we have landscaping and neighborhoods.
It's a week-long event now, called Dwell Design Week, and certified as [that] by the city and the mayor of L.A, so it's really exciting. It's almost its own company at this point, it's so large."
7. Build on your product line.
"We've got the Dwell Homes Collection, which we've had since June 2005. We've … sold 52 homes all around the country and a few other places in the world."
8. Explore book sales opportunities and partnerships.
"We also have a book series with Blurb, though we don't consider Blurb a traditional book publisher. We consider it kind of activating the ideas of imagination of the design world, and having thousands of books published. Our first book was from a photo contest we did, which was 'The View From Your Window.' It sold out in 30 days, so we're going for a second printing. … "
9. "Complete the circle of every medium."
"We'll be 11 years old next month. I'm really proud of what the company is and what the brand represents now. [But], you … can't ever believe that you've 'arrived.' There's always more to be done, … something we could be doing better on every platform, and I'm sure there are going to be platforms that don't exist today that I'll be talking to you about in six months to a year.
In general, in terms of the experience that somebody in our community looks to, we're pretty much everywhere. We do not have a television show on air yet, but that is my goal for 2012. We have shot a pilot, so I'm hoping to get that into market next year. That will really complete the circle of every medium."
From Robin Rosenbaum-Andras …
Senior Vice President
Onboard Media is a leading provider of custom, integrated media solutions to the global travel industry.
10. Remember that quality content is key to performing for your advertisers—even for custom projects.
"Onboard Media's business is centered around creating compelling television programming and custom publications for cruise vacationers. Our message is very focused on the shopping experience. Advertisers buy into our media because of the exposure to our exclusive audience. Their expectations for results are high, and because of the nature of our business, the return on their investment is highly measurable.
Our media must perform for them. … The temptation is to scream your message. However, in today's world, the methods employed must be engaging to the audience—particularly when they are on vacation and don't want a hard-sell.
We make every effort to ensure our … TV programming is extremely watchable. Even though our custom channels may be broadcast inside a cruise ship or hotel room, we strive to emulate the best-quality programming … on cable and broadcast TV. Our custom publications contain a targeted message, but have the look and feel of the most popular consumer … magazines. …
If you expect readers and viewers to be motivated by your message, you have to give them an enjoyable experience. We've spent more time, money and effort than ever … on elevating the editorial content of our media products, but it's worth it. Our partners know our media resonates and generates a higher return for them."
From Chad Phelps …
Chief Digital Officer
F+W Media produces a range of digital products, magazines, books, events and services across a number of verticals, including antiques, crafts, fine arts, horticulture, automotive, sports and construction.
11. Launch an e-commerce business.
"… At F+W Media, we have launched a very successful e-commerce business that leverages our relationship with the reader to deliver an online shopping experience that helps feed their passion and/or profession. The e-commerce division has quickly grown to a double-digit share of our overall company revenue, while maintaining a healthy contribution margin. Offering a diverse product portfolio that includes both digital and physical products, and focusing on creating a professional, customer-service oriented shopping experience, drive[s] the e-commerce business."
12. Launch an online- education business.
"Continuing education is an important part of our communities at F+W. We have successfully launched a myriad of education products and services that … help [our audiences] achieve their goals. Education is delivered online in various forms, both instructor-led and self-paced.
Our education business has demonstrated continued year-on-year growth and expansion into new markets. …"
From Jeffrey Mason …
Senior Vice President, Trucking Group
Randall-Reilly Business Media and Information
The trucking group at Randall-Reilly publishes magazines for the trucking and construction industries, and produces the Great American Trucking Show, the second-largest trucking trade show in the country.
13. Mark brand milestones with sponsored products.
"We created two things worthy of note this year based on anniversaries. One was the 100th anniversary of the Commercial Carrier Journal (CCJ) brand. We produced a strong print supplement, a retro-style website [www.ccj100.com/], and at one of our shows we had a special booth presentation … of the various milestones that have taken place in trucking. We sold ad packages for all three, and it was an unbudgeted item, so it was a nice revenue generator for CCJ.
We did basically the same thing with the Overdrive brand, which turned 50 years old [in September]."
14. Create supplemental events to bring in new audiences.
"At The Great American Trucking Show, we created a [pre-event] … called the Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference. The audience was made up of high-level executives, who we are trying to attract to the show, and by coming in two days early and hearing significant speeches (Karl Rove was our keynote speaker) and discussions with peers, they were able to learn. So we invested a bit to create [it], and … [it] generate[d] registration revenue that was up significantly year over year. And … it got executives to the show that wouldn't have normally come—and now their companies are exhibiting.
… For three of our face-to-face events, we have shifted the model to … providing higher-level speakers, and therefore attracting people to pay …, whereas before it was free, and money was made off of sponsorships."
15. Repurpose content to create digital-only publications for niche audiences.
"We created digital-only publications that we e-mail … to certain [reader segments] It's basically a repurposing of certain content—in [one] case, high-level, high-quality photographs of trucks for the enthusiast [called Truckers Rigs Photos]. … It's sort of like a picture book …, and that has attracted more advertisers because of the large base we are sending it to."
16. Work with partners to
create new data products.
"FTR [Freight Transportation Research] Associates and Randall-Reilly have partnered to create a research report, available by paid, monthly subscription, called 'TruckGauge,' which takes economic data that's available to everybody [such as fuel prices or freight indexes], but has been massaged to be more of use to the trucking fleet executive. It's … an information and research product, and … a revenue generator. [FTR Associates] provides economic data, and our editors … create reports out of [the content]."
17. Leverage in-house data products in new ways.
"We've also partnered with an internal partner—Equipment Data Associates (EDA) … [to] provide another information product, which will become kind of like the Carfax for trucking. We call it RigDig. It's information that's out there, … a mashup of various data from the industry that's available to EDA, and they … create a report. If you are buying a big truck, you would run this report, [which] tells you the condition of the truck; if you run a clean RigDig, you know you are getting a good piece of equipment."
18. Don't neglect print.
"Print is not dead. … Those [publishers] who have a relationship with the readers through traditional print brands … are in a huge position to win in the end.
We have a saying: 'Content is not a commodity, its a currency.' So if you are known for your content and … brands, then it opens up a lot of doors with the market you are serving. Print is just a distribution method. … Right now, print is and always has been dominant. As that changes, or as that mix changes, print will [remain] a big part of that."
From Ephram "Skip"
Zimbalist III* …
Chairman and CEO
Active Interest Media (AIM)
AIM is focuses on enthusiast magazines and related consumer shows, Internet sites, and books through a number of market-focused groups: its Equine Network, Healthy Living Group, Home Buyer Group, Marine Group and Outdoor Group.
19. Explore services, beyond content, to serve your market.
"We have several ancillary businesses. … In our Equine Group, we have US Rider; the best way to describe it is the AAA for those who have horse trailers. So if you break down while hauling your trailer …, most AAA towers can't help you, but we do. So we have a fast-growing business in memberships in that field.
Another area … is our classified websites. We have two … that are of any [significant] size. … One is in the equine area, where we have a listing service for selling your horse. Equine.com has tens of thousands, maybe 50,000 horses listed for sale. …
BoatQuest also does that in the marine area, with boats for sale.
A third example is … a service called Benefits Plus, … liability insurance for yoga instructors. We've teamed with an insurance company to craft a policy that is perfect for yoga instructors in case someone hurts themselves while they're taking lessons, and we sell that to yoga instructors. So those are all significant areas of revenue."
20. Sell third-party products.
"We're starting to get seriously into e-commerce as well. … I'm talking about primarily third-party sales … like martial arts supplies, largely from our advertisers, but having a store on our website that sells it, or selling yoga equipment or clothing, that kind of thing. It's still a relatively small percentage of revenue …, but growing rapidly. … It's something that's going to be important going forward." PE
*Editor's Note: Skip Zimbalist quotes excerpted from Publishing Executive Inbox Executive Insights, Sept. 29, special edition.