How traditional media businesses can create online subscriptions packages

The debate is still raging among traditional media businesses, particularly newspapers, over how to drive revenues from online content.  Pure online news no longer will justify an entry fee, especially with the BBC providing such a comprehensive service for free.  See my earlier post on reinventing online content for more thoughts on the implications for editorial teams.  Meanwhile, online-only information businesses are carving out profitable niches serving very targeted groups, eg econsultancy. Publishers will need to think hard about how to use their editorial expertise to create specific packages that niche audiences will consider worth paying for.  Rather than trying to charge multiple micro-payments for piecemeal chunks of editorial, I believe there is mileage in creating online subscription packages that combine a number of useful content-based elements for a carefully defined audience.  Here are some suggested steps for media businesses who want to create an online subscriptions package:

1. Identify a niche audience

Sift through your overall online audience and identify those small groups who have a shared interest and, most importantly, value information and advice on a key decision.  This is easiest to do with business audiences, who are looking to make the right purchasing decision or obtain leads for new business.  However, some groups of consumers making big buying or life decisions will also value helpful content.  You are unlikely to be able to make a general content proposition stick – so fine-tune to a very specific audience.

2. Review your content assets

Traditional media businesses are often sitting on valuable databases, archives, galleries or simply the accumulated wisdom of an established editorial team.  Work out what you have that is unique, and also valuable to your niche audience.  Reviews of products, services or venues, profiles of key companies or individuals, data on transactions could all have a value to a specific niche group.

3. Create a core package of valuable, targeted information

Consider how you can package up your digested content to meet the needs of your audience: maybe a weekly news digest and detailed analysis of key topics plus occasional detailed reports or reviews, and access to a library or archive of helpful content.

4. Add some intriguing extras

The web allows you to provide some useful extras that could never be included in a traditional media product – useful tools that make your target audience’s life easier, video how-tos for complex products or activities, access to expert Q&As or webinars.

5. Make people feel special

All subscribers and members like to feel they are part of a club.  Can you offer early, discounted or privileged access to special events,  conferences, new products or services?  If your subscribers are likely to want to contact each other, consider offering networking services so they feel like part of a club.  See some more ideas on this topic on my post on inviting your best customers into a club.

I’m keen to hear your views on these ideas, and any examples you have of media businesses who have tested them out.

Carolyn Morgan’s consultancy business, Penmaen Media, creates practical digital media and marketing strategy for both media and non-media businesses.  If you’d like advice on developing an online subscriptions package for your customers, please contact us for an initial discussion.