At the FIPP Congress last year F+W presented their content universe modelled on education and step-by-step video guides. There were similar ideas from other publishers such as Allrecipes, Hearst, and foreign brands, so what F+W’s strategy increasingly represents an industry-wide trend’ – this was as true in 2015 when I wrote the aforementioned paragraph as it is now. Education is hot for publishing houses and media companies. F+W, for example, sells educational products separate from magazines or paid websites; as such they produce their content once and monetise the same key information three times or four times within the education portfolio. That’s in addition to the legacy business on newsstands and via subscriptions for their magazines. The courses range from $49 weeklong seminars to $1,200+ longer projects. There are annual plans, monthly packages, and pay-per-view offers. It takes the teams four to 10 weeks to bring a course to market; asked by another publisher how one would start a new education portfolio F+W said ‘start with 10 courses and try to migrate existing editorial content into the courses’. In 2015 F+W generated 10 per cent of the total revenue from educational content (it took several years to get there) and has since begun to cross-sell products in videos, that is: products used in cooking videos, for example, are featured by the chef and subsequently being sold on the F+W e-stores. It is very likely that the 10 per cent rev share will increase in 2016 and 2017.
Publishers must be able to anticipate, analyse and predict what kind of content will be the best, the most interesting and the most engaging. That's were the content gold will be: predicting and matching audience needs based on big data and real-time analysis. Combine this with education – and suddenly you’re able to predict what courses will sell best on what device on any given day in any given format. Pretty neat, isn’t it? Let’s call this predictive educational content and match our editorial archives with analytics to leverage the assets we already have. Why invest in too much new content when you can turn existing content into a revenue motor by adding predictive methods to your data strategy?
Have you read about the Dollar Shave Club? What was once a small California-based start-up with a focus on selling shaving accessories for men based on monthly subscriptions is now a huge e-commerce juggernaut. So huge, in fact, that Unilever acquired the DSC for $1 billion this year. The DSC represents a new and very hot trend in e-commerce: club models that cater to affluent audiences with tightly packed product portfolios centred around evergreen topics and basic needs. You will find fashion clubs in Africa, perfume subscriptions in Asia, Amazon’s Prime offer with groceries and FMCG in the U.S. and Europe, and many many more. Why is this important to know for publishers? Because you’re the masters of the subscriptions business. You know how to turn one customer into a loyal client that spends $$$ for many years to come on your products. Begin to redefine your business around the needs of your audience: what e-commerce products match well with your websites, magazines, books or events? Is there a way to sell monthly or quarterly commerce packages in addition to the content products? Yes? Wait no more, launch your own commerce club today!
An interesting strategic shift is happening at media companies: driven by ad blockers, fragmented channels and changing reader habits many publishers forego growing large audience bases in order to develop a niche-based content strategy where profits are earned with small but loyal readerships. That’s true for publishers, but I also observed this trend in Cleveland where large corporations strategise about content marketing 2.0. The niche battle is here and it has only just begun. Publishers and corporations alike re-niche their content to be the no. 1 in any given area beyond mass topics. Why? Because niches deliver consistent growth according to large publishers like German Gruner+Jahr, who have launched beef, wood, and cooking titles, or niche experts like F+W with dozens of niche brands from hunting, cooking and crafting to DIY. We will surely see more publishers going niche in 2017, this trend has only just begun.
At the Ebner Media Group our CEO Gerrit Klein always says: ‘while real-time analysis will be important to drive your predictive content strategy, real-time relevancy will drive the user engagement’. So, what’s the upside here for you? Put shortly: only then will your messages be relevant if at the same time you are able to present your audience related messages or products based on a deep understanding of their content usage. Large publishers like Hearst, NYT and Guardian a while ago have begun to match content with advertising or marketing messages based on automated tags or predictive analytics. It’s a strategy that has been around at ecommerce for many years but has not been employed by media companies on such a scale as we see it now. Is it a trend? Yes, but we as publishers are late to the game.
Let’s combine all five trends to build an impactful strategy: the niche publishing house with a commerce engine that’s based on content repackaged as educational products, sold as subscriptions within a club, optimised with predictive technologies and presented based on real-time relevancy algorithms. Good luck.
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