How are consumer and b2b publishers tackling digital media?

The Specialist Media Insights research polled over 160 publishers in March 2012, asking them how they were approaching online paid content, mobile apps, social media, ecommerce, online events and more.  Most respondents were independent publishers based in the UK, but with a small group of US and European publishers.  In some digital disciplines, b2b publishers are leading the way; in others consumer publishers are the pioneers.  Here’s the subtle differences between the two:

1.    B2B publishers are more successful at charging for online content.

46% of b2b publishers are already charging for online content and a further 23% plan to in the next 2 years.  Of those who are charging, 55% can charge £100-999 and 27% charge over £1000pa.  Consumer publishers are finding it harder to charge for online content.  22% are doing so now, and a further 31% are planning to, but rates are much lower; 70% are charging less than £50pa.

2.    Consumer pubs are pioneering mobile apps, but business publishers are catching up fast

Consumer publishers have been quick to adopt mobile app editons of their titles: 50% have mobile apps now compared to just 30% of b2b publishers.  In 2 years time, though, the playing field will be level, with around two-thirds of both consumer and B2B publishers planning to have mobile editions.  As with online subs, B2B are better at holding app prices in line with their print publications, with 64% charging the same as print, compared to just 37% of consumer publishers.

3.    Live events are still important to both, but B2B are far more interested in online and virtual events

48% of consumer publishers run live events, with 59% of B2B publishers running conferences and 38% exhibitions, plus 43% running face to face networking events.

However, B2B publishers are far more interested in online and virtual events, perhaps because their audience are under such time pressure and travel is costly.  31% already run webinars, and a further 39% plan to.  Just 10% run virtual events now, but a surprisingly high 44% are keen to investigate.

4.    Social media is now having a measurable impact on publishers’ business

Consumer and B2B publishers are agreed on the importance of social media, with half stating it is now very important for their business.  There are few surprises in the platforms they are using:  LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube predominate, although a pioneering 19% of consumer publishers are already experimenting with Pinterest!

Social media is a more significant traffic driver for consumer, with 32% of publishers saying it contributes over 20% of traffic.  Social Media is a small but growing channel for live event tickets; a pioneering 10% say they get over 30% of their attendees from social media promotion.  Advertising and sponsorship revenues are also embryonic;  although 15% say that they are able to charge a separate rate for their social media activity.

5.    Ecommerce is growing, but b2b and consumer have different strategies

Both already are involved in selling event tickets online.  Consumer publishers are more likely to sell physical goods online (37% hold stock, while 25% have commission arrangements with retailers). b2b publishers are more likely to be selling digital goods such as reports, with 39% already doing this and 24% planning to.

So B2B publishers still lead in online subscriptions, and have a greater interest in online and virtual events.  They are more successful in holding premium prices for digital content. Consumer publishers have pioneered mobile app editions of their titles, but B2B publishers are likely to catch up soon.    Social media is just starting to generate real results for both – and e-commerce is a growing source of revenues.

Jim Bilton, MD of Wessenden Marketing, will be presenting highlights from the research at the Specialist Media Show on 24 May 2012.  Register free now to attend the show for an inspiring day of free workshops, practical 1-1 advice and innovative new suppliers and services.

About the author: Carolyn Morgan works with niche media businesses on their digital publishing and marketing strategy, through consulting firm Penmaen Media.Carolyn regularly writes for media trade press and speaks at conferences on the challenges of digital publishing.  She also runs the Specialist Media Show, a conference, exhibition and workshop programme for niche publishers.  Carolyn moderates the Specialist Media Network on LinkedIn, a community of over 900 niche publishers who swap ideas and contacts. Request to join here.