How to reinvent your specialist media business
In the last few months, I have been researching innovative specialist media and publishing businesses from across Europe. This is for a special report commissioned by Media Makers Meet.
Based on analysis and research into twenty companies from thirteen different countries and interviews with six media leaders, I have built up a picture of how business models in niche publishing are changing.
In this article I explore eight approaches to help you reinvent your specialist media business.
The full report will be published in June 2023 and is free to download . Featured businesses will also be involved in a Media Makers Meet event in Feb 2024.
1. Understand every group in your ecosystem
Your core brand may be based on a specific group of buyers and sellers, or a peer group who like to share best practice. But there may be a whole range of other connected groups who are interested in understanding the market. An academic publisher has developed a detailed ecosystem mapping the flow of knowledge between different interest groups. This has helped them develop new products and services upstream and downstream from their core brands.
2. Integrate your community into your content
In many business and professional markets, and also in some consumer specialist interests, your readers or audience may be experts in their own niche. So finding a systematic way for your communities to contribute to your content and your events will mean your products more closely match what your audience need. A B2B publisher has taken this further, scheduling discussions on hot topics within its online community, moderated by the same experts who speak at its events, to fine tune the content and generate new material to showcase in person. Then they pick up the post-event discussion in the online community afterwards.
3. Create content in multiple formats
Audiences are increasingly keen to consume content in audio or video format. Some publishers convert all their articles to audio. Many have set up in-house studios to create high quality video. And a large number of B2B publishers are developing online training and professional development modules, to help their audience progress in their career.
4. Know your audience’s content behaviour
The shift to digital content is allowing publishers to track exactly who reads what and for how long. One B2B publisher has closed the majority of their print titles and moved almost exclusively to digital content with free registration or paid subscriptions. They have invested heavily in software that allows them to segment audiences and target on-site or via email. The content insights are also invaluable to their editorial teams. Another B2B publisher has developed “intent data” software in-house, to track which content is consumed by readers with different job roles and disciplines.
5. Explore new forms of digital subscription
Publishers are experimenting with digital subscriptions sold separately to print, with access to different packages of content. These often attract new audiences, maybe younger demographics or early career professionals, or secondary audiences in different countries or parts of the ecosystem. Adding valuable features to digital subscriptions such as exclusive audio, newsletters or events allows price increases. One publisher targets annual growth of 10% in ARPU (average revenue per user) through adding value.
6. Create a culture of innovation and a process to develop ideas
Traditional publishing teams may find it hard to generate new ideas for products and services and bring them to fruition. More than one publisher I spoke to has set up a dedicated innovation team, to engage with market teams, provide them with tools to evaluate their ideas, and then support them to develop a business case and launch them.
7. Use your knowledge and reach to develop new products and services
Established specialist publishers usually have deep knowledge, and possibly proprietary data, in their markets. They will also have an extensive database and a trusted brand. This provides an excellent platform to launch new products and services. An events business has created a consultancy/advisory arm that now contributes almost half their revenue. A longstanding B2B publisher now sells practice management software to the small businesses they serve. And another B2B publisher has launched two successful online marketplaces that bring together specialist buyers and sellers.
8. Think like a tech business
The language of SaaS businesses and tech firms is spreading in publishing and specialist media. Many are talking about ARPU (average revenue per user) and ARR (annualised recurring revenue) as well as CPA (cost per acquisition) and renewal or churn rates. And the packaging of subscriptions is closer to SaaS, with tiered options, checklists of features, individual and team options and monthly “no contract” billing.
Some publishers are going one step further and launching their own stand alone SaaS products. It’s no surprise that one such publisher is led by a CEO with a tech background rather than media. A growing proportion of media businesses have CTOs and an in-house or dedicated outsourced development team.
To read more about the companies featured in the report, go to this link.
If you’d like to chat to me about what I learned during the research process and how it could apply to your own media business, please get in touch.
About the author
Carolyn Morgan has acquired, launched, built, and sold specialist media businesses in print, digital and events. She now advises niche consumer and B2B publishers on developing new products and digital revenue streams as a consultant and NED.