While The Economist has a metered pay model for viewing its online content, Baumes said it offers free access—a “loophole,” he termed it—to readers who link from social sites. The reasoning: Viewers from these sources are more engaged and more likely to become online subscribers, he said.
Mobile marketing also is taking on a larger role at The Economist. Baumes said 10% to 20% of the publication's online traffic comes from mobile devices. The company is working to optimize its sites for mobile viewing, so “bouncing out is becoming unusual,” he said.
Social media and mobile are also advancing rapidly at the Financial Times.
“[With social media], you can encourage engagement and also track it,” Elissa Tomasetti, VP-marketing and global audience development at the Financial Times, said at the SIIA event. “You can determine with inexpensive software systems what subject matters are hot. This is creating opportunities for both editors and publishers.”
Tomasetti said mobile is the largest external source of Financial Times subscriptions and generates 20% of its page views. “The great news is mobile viewers are two-and-a-half times more likely to spend money with our advertisers,” she said.
“We look at the retail model all the time,” she said. “We want to own the relationship with the customer, and to do that we've launched a Web app that adheres to the same model as our desktop model. We're behaving like a retailer here, and it's really working.”
In another session at the SIIA conference, Paul Wojcik, chairman of Bloomberg BNA, said a general lack of trust in content, whether online or offline, is endemic today.
“Content has been transformed from being king to being a commodity and then back to at least being part of the royal family,” Wojcik said. “People generally have stopped believing in what they hear. Media bashing today is a nondenominational national pastime.”
Wojcik said this mistrust will remain a key reality for both publishers and content marketers this year and beyond.
“It's the reality we have to deal with,” he said. “Winning and maintaining trust is the defining challenge for the content business in the years ahead.