ABM Executive Forum focuses on content

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American Business Media's Executive Forum, which took place Monday and Tuesday in Chicago, had as its title “Content Matters.” The explorations of content took many directions, but the most important to b-to-b media executives may have been the presenters who shared approaches to generating paid content. The conference kicked off Monday with a presentation from Kevin McKean, VP-editorial director of Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, who addressed the issue of paid content. “You do not get good content without investment,” he said. Consumer Reports generates about $225 million annually from users, 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 price. 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,” he 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 Tuesday's sessions, Peter Hoyt, CEO of the Path to Purchase Institute, a for-profit association for consumer marketers trying to reach shoppers on- and offline, described how his organization evolved from what used to be Hoyt Publishing, a b-to-b media company. With the association model, the companies that were once readers of his publications are now paying members of the Path to Purchase Institute. Sheila Rice, Northstar Travel Media's VP-business development and licensing, described how her company's central travel database includes 70,000 geographic places, 160,000 hotels, 31,000 points of interest and other travel-oriented information. Northstar has bundled this information to license it for use by other companies, such as American Express Co., AOL Inc., Dow Jones & Co. and Yahoo. Timothy Kennelty, VP-product strategy and development at ALM, discussed how the legal media company has repurposed content that could be used by litigators in New York into a single paid work-flow product—Smart Litigator. “We're scaling it out,” Kennelty said, referring to ALM's plans to replicate the product in other states.
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