What does it take to reinvent a long established media brand and completely change its business model? At Making Publishing Pay we heard from two speakers who have made that transition: Richard Butterworth of Chemical Watch and Catrin Griffiths of The Lawyer. And if you don’t have a media brand at all, how can you build a business around a community? Founder of MarTech Alliance, Carlos Doughty, shared some tips. Here’s the highlights if you missed the event.
Chemical Watch, Commercial Director, Richard Butterworth
Chemical Watch is a long established B2B publisher for the chemical compliance industry. They used to have a range of individual, specialised subscription publications, conferences and e-learning products.
Two years ago they embarked on a major customer research process, appointing an editor within the business in the new role of Chief Customer Officer and creating a customer panel called the “Business Contact Group”. The outcome was repackaging all their current and archive content into a single enterprise membership proposition, allowing individual users to tailor the content they received based on their own interests and job role.
The team developed detailed user stories based on their research and validated them with the customer panel. All their content was restructured, and they developed a new AI based tagging system, semantic fingerprinting, with a tech partner. The new membership platform has been validated with customers, and rolled out gradually, as they approach renewals.
So far, the reception has been very positive and revenues per customer have grown significantly. They have had to invest in customer success teams to support customers in accessing content and deriving value from their membership.
Catrin Griffiths, Editor, The Lawyer
Five years ago all The Lawyer’s content (print and online) was free and ad-funded. Now well over 40% of their revenues are from readers, from basic subscriptions and premium intelligence subjects. The journey hasn’t been straightforward, but much has been learnt about what content readers value and will pay for.
The first step was the launch of Lawyer Market Intelligence. Based on reader research, the team commissioned an Indian company to compile a database of deal announcements and in-house counsel panel reviews. However, it didn’t catch the imagination of readers, who preferred to directly read the articles published in The Lawyer itself, which were often the source material for entries in LMI.
So that prompted the decision to implement a paywall in 2016. The instinct that the analysis uncovered by the editorial team was valuable was proved right. At launch, 50 firms subscribed, and now that has expanded to over 300. Subscribers are avid consumers of the content, 55% visit daily or weekly.
The success of the paywall provided encouragement to follow up a hunch on litigation, a major sector of commercial law that was not being systematically tracked. Over two years, a database of judgements was built up, with detail on solicitors, barristers and judges. Then it was launched as a separate, premium priced subscription and has been highly successful, among barristers as well as commercial law firms.
The real value of the litigation tracker to the editorial team is that it enables the creation of many exclusive analysis stories, such as which solicitors never appoint female barristers. The next step is logging claims, which are the early stage of the litigation process, and mean that it will be easier to track claims that are settled and never go to court.
Catrin strongly believes that it is the quality of the journalism in The Lawyer that underpins the success of the paywall, and that the involvement of the editorial team in the design of the Litigation Tracker that has helped identify exclusive, data-driven stories. So data is not a separate strand to journalism, the two are deeply entwined.
Carlos Doughty, Founder, Martech Alliance
MarTech Alliance provides a range of services for the martech community, from events, festivals and pop up parties to a book club and online learning. In just a couple of years its main event, MarTech Fest, has grown to 1250 attendees. Carlos shared how he had grown the community from scratch, with six tips for other media businesses.
- Get the attention of the top influencers in your industry. The online MarTech book club has attracted readers and also built relationships with authors who have often gone on to become speakers at events.
- Find your brand ambassador and encourage them to use social media to build strong online networks
- Have a consistent and recognisable brand identity, going beyond logos to venues, music, tone, experience of events – to reflect the business
- Create big content and then repackage as presentations, ebooks, webinars, training, infographics and more
- Cater to all audiences, all levels. MarTech Alliance aim to create parallel experiences at its events that suit each segment of the audience – from dinners with CMOs to pop up parties for marketing managers. Carlos is also looking at using event tech to allow attendees to self organise into interest-driven meetups at the event.
- Recruit great talent, as a top team can perform miracles. Most important attribute is the ability to learn fast, as the business evolves rapidly.
A common thread is truly understanding your customer, whether that is through formal research, customer panels, live events or the day to day work of specialist journalists. And then being flexible about the type of services you create for them to meet their individual needs. Finally connect the different products to create content from events, articles from the insights from data and intelligence tools, and use events to gain more insights into new needs.
More articles to come from Making Publishing Pay…
If you’d like to talk through how you might want to apply some of these ideas to your own media business, do get in touch to arrange an open-minded conversation.
About the author
Carolyn Morgan has bought, sold, launched and grown specialist media businesses across print, digital and live events. A founder of the Specialist Media Show (sold in 2014) she now advises media businesses large and small on their digital strategy through her consultancy Speciall Media.