Paid content options for b2b publishers

There’s been a flurry of announcements recently about b2b publishers setting up paid content models.  Construction News have put subs-only content behind a pay-wall; Paid content is investigating paid models, and the New York Times has announced it is moving to a metered model.  After the initial focus on newspapers, it’s now the specialist b2b publishers who are testing out new approaches.  The recent closure of Media Week shows that the old model of a weekly magazine filled with news and gossip and a few surveys and opinion pieces just doesn’t stack up.  Most business people are now plugged into a community that circulates industry news through email, blogs, linked-in and twitter.  Where b2b publishers potentially have an edge is in using their knowledge and contacts for creating lead generation or trend forecasting services, or providing useful tools that help people do their job better.  A great example is Emap’s WGSN, who can charge £15k for trend forecasting services.  Here are the main paid content business models that b2b publishers appear to be using:

1. Bundle online sub with print

This is the simple approach, adopted by Economist and also Construction News.  It rewards existing print subs, but doesn’t allow new readers to pick and mix the online content and tools.

2. All you can eat digital sub

Some print publishers, such as Economist, offer this as an alternative, at a slight discount to the full subs rate ($95 vs £102 – presumably Economist readers can do currency in their heads…).  It’s also being tested by Paid Content, the digital media service owned by the Guardian, which doesn’t have a print product.  They are looking at annual rates of £129 to £249 for unrestricted access to archive as well as current articles.  Some publishers are using iphone apps to make it easier to charge: Music Week is offering 30 days access for £9.99, although some content will be free.  Interesting how the basis is shifting to timed subs with universal access rather than per-issue charging.

3. Free news and paid-for research/ tools/ directories

This hybrid model is favoured by Emap and Reed, with forums and news outside the paywall, and higher value reports, analysis and tools inside.  The free news drives traffic, and then the premium products need to be vigorously promoted.  Inside the pay-wall, the targeted audience means that advertising can be sold at a premium.

4. Metered access

This is the famous FT model, and as they now claim to be making more revenue from readers than advertisers, it seems to be working for them.  The New York Times has also decided to adopt this approach – allowing readers to view a number of articles for free, but paying once they reach a certain limit.  Again, the paying customers are no doubt of value to select advertisers.

5. Free content and make money elsewhere

Some business publishers who are confident in their ability to sell event tickets, training places, magazine subscriptions, directory listings and special reports, are still sticking to the free content model.  Econsultancy have built a very successful business around a core of quality free content.  Haymarket’s brandrepublic takes a similar approach.  If your competitors are adopting this model, you need to think very carefully before you go for a full paywall; this is the dilemma faced by New Media Age, which competes with both of these businesses.

So there are a number of different approaches to paid content; it will be interesting to see which pay off…If you have other examples or experiences to share, please comment below, or join the discussions on the Specialist Media Network on Linked-in.

Carolyn Morgan’s consultancy business, Penmaen Media, creates practical digital media and marketing strategies, and has particular expertise with media businesses.  If you’d like an initial chat about how you can develop your paid content business model, please contact us.


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