Chicago—American Business Media's annual Executive Forum, called “Content Matters” this year, kicked off Monday afternoon with two speakers who explored ways b-to-b media companies could better exploit their online content.
In the first presentation, Kevin McKean, VP-editorial director of Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports, addressed the issue of paid content. “You do not get good content without investment,” he said.
Consumer Reports generates about $225 million from users annually, charging for its ratings and test reports; but it places some basic content in front of its paywall, mainly for search engine optimization purposes to attract new paying subscribers. The magazine had previously relied more on paid search to attract new subscribers, but the costs became so high they were more than an average subscription's first year cost.
McKean cautioned against offering subscription packages that bundle print and the Web. Many users have specific channel preferences, he said. Tossing in print when a reader only wants Web access adds unnecessary production and delivery costs. McKean also contended that micropayments are a problematic content strategy, because the publisher has to sell the reader again and again on paying for the content.
“Once content is created, your goal should be to maximize its use,” McKean said.
Ultimately, McKean recommended what he called a “porous” paywall, similar to what Consumer Reports uses or the metered model pioneered by the Financial Times, both of which mix free and paid content.
In the second and final session of the day, Keith DeWeese, director of information and semantics management at Tribune Co., spoke about the rise of the semantic Web and what it means for b-to-b media companies. DeWeese started with the basics, explaining that the semantic Web essentially covers computers' “understanding” the meanings of words in content and then automatically making judgments about where to place the content or to recommend related content. He used the example of writing code that would help a computer differentiate between the St. Louis Rams and RAM.
DeWeese said the process of developing an ontology and taxonomy for the Tribune “is like playing one of the world's largest word games.” He recommended that b-to-b publishers begin metatagging their content, which can lead to users reading related stories and additional revenue generation.
The conference, which attracted about 170 attendees, continues today with a full day of sessions.