content marketing

Dovetail Subscription Conversion workshop

To the Dovetail Subscription Conversion workshop held at the conference centre of the British Library (an excuse for a plug for my review of the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty Legacy exhibition).

A short afternoon, but with several presentations on different aspects of ways in which we can maximise the return on subs efforts. For each I’ve got links to a blog post which has a copy of the presentation, as well as a link to a longer ‘Guide‘ which has a bit more background and context. Most of what was discussed was at a basic or intermediate level to match the differing knowledge levels of the audience, but it’s always helpful to be reminded of stuff we already know (or think that we do).

  • Ecommerce Top Tips (presentation here; more detail here): Ways to improve ecommerce performance through better understanding of the customer journey, improving the user experience and testing different approaches.
  • Using Customer Service better (presentation here; more detail here): Many of us don’t take full advantage of the knowledge and experience of our CS teams, but involving them early in the set up of new promotions can reduce the number of errors that occur later.
  • How reviews can boost SEO performance (presentation here; more detail here): Climbing up the search engine rankings is a tough old game, but adding reviews and ratings to your product pages can help. It also gives invaluable feedback on your products and services.

These are the first bits of a new project I’ve been asked to do by Dovetail to provide extra content for their site. I’ll post up more links as and when I do them.

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In Praise of WordPress

imgresI built yet another website last week (I’m a one man content farm).

For a couple of years I’ve had a blog about London history on Google’s ‘Blogger’ platform, but because Blogger is a bit basic (and, to be honest, a bit crap), I bought a domain, transferred all the content from the old site to the new one, put in 301 redirects so I don’t lose any search visibility, upgraded the meta text for better SEO, installed analytics tracking code, dropped in a line of code to verify the site with an affiliate network, added social sharing buttons, and linked my twitter account to automatically promote posts. Oh, and I tried out three or four different site designs until I found one I liked.

The fact that I could do all of this with coding knowledge that stopped with MS-DOS (ask your parents) is all down to WordPress. At its most basic you can have a website up and running in a couple of minutes using the tools at http://wordpress.com. Decide on a name, decide on how you want the site to look, a couple of clicks and you can start a blog.

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Publishers v. Ecommerce

I wasn’t at the PPA Conference on Wednesday (at my age there’s only so much high-intensity excitement that I can take), so it might be that this description of Future’s T3 site’s ecommerce strategy is incorrect. “Nial Ferguson, group publishing director at Future, says T3 magazine is building an affiliate advertising model to take advantage of its tech-hungry audience’s buying habits.”

This sounds to me like T3 is going to add links off to third-party sites in its reviews of products so after a description of a particular piece of kit, opportunities to buy that product are put in front of the reader, and Future will make a percentage of the sale.

Well, it’s sort of fine in its way and it’s probably better than doing nothing, but if this is the strategy then it leaves quite a lot to be desired. (For one thing, the percentage that Future will make will be tiny – 3% perhaps, may be 5% from a generous seller, and the click-throughs on this sort of activity are pretty puny.)

And it doesn’t solve the biggest problem of traditional publishers, and that’s the competition. I don’t mean T3‘s battle with Stuff, I mean the fact that ecommerce companies are now switched on to content. Publishers have always prided themselves on being in “the content business” and love to shout  “content is king”, as if that in itself means anything, but they’ve never really managed to get content to make money, except as a wrapper for adverts. Publishers ought to be very afraid of ecommerce companies moving into this territory.

Because, let’s face it, you can buy content. That’s what publishers do – we hire writers, photographers, designers and editors and they go off any produce stuff for us. But the barriers to entry aren’t that significant, and there’s a lot of talent out there. Basically, it’s significantly easier for an ecommerce firm – with its bigger budgets, its ready-made audience, its data on its customers – to get good at content than it is for a content firm to gain traction as an ecommerce business. ASOS magazine anyone?

Can publishers sell?

A post worth reading is Ken Doctor’s ‘The Newsonomics of 100 products a year‘, a piece about how newspapers and magazines are leveraging content to produce, well, sellable content. Raid your archive to produce ebooks and apps that give niche material to subscribers and other buyers.

UK magazine publishers seem to have been quite quick to do this already, both in traditional print (repackaging content in ‘bookazines’) and in apps, but what’s also noticeable is that they are also paying much more attention to other sources of revenue, the money that doesn’t come from copy, content or ad sales.

The people who led the way, of course, were Reader’s Digest, offering up books, music, videos (DVDs for the young people in the audience) to their huge database through their exceptional direct marketing machine. RD in fact make significantly more (to a factor of 20+) from products than they do from their mag, and despite the pressures on their circulation are still managing to extract large value from their databases.  (more…)

Why content isn’t quite king

After years of giving away content for free and selling online display against page views, the introduction of the Times paywall and the launch of Apple Newsstand has made the magazine industry feel something akin to hope – there may be a future beyond print that actually makes money. The extension of porous paywalls allows ad revenue to be generated from browsers and subscription revenue from readers, apps let us sell an entire product, not just individual bites, and we can repackage our content in a multitude of digital versions.

Because it’s all about content isn’t it? We publishers have the content that people want, and we know how to sell it to them, and one way or another, that’s the thing that will save publishing. It’s easy – content gets people to come to websites, which allows us to sell ads against eyeballs; people will pay for content, so we can construct paywalls and build apps, and make revenue that way. We can remake the Internet and Apple Newsstand like a WHSmith of the past – ranks of browsers skimming pages and soaking up those lovely, lucrative, adverts; large numbers of buyers handing over money to get access to the whole package. It all comes down to content – we produce it, they want it, they will give us money for it. After all, we publishers are in the ’content business’ aren’t we?

Well, up to a point. As Drew Breunig argues, ’content’ is such a broadly defined term as to be almost meaningless and anyone can produce it. And, if we’re being honest, a lot of publishers aren’t that good at good content – there’s too much ’me too’ material out there, magazines and websites aping market leaders rather than developing their own identity; too many rewarmed press releases masquerading as news; too much advertorial pretending to be features. Content for content’s sake. (more…)