To charge or not to charge

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Publishers are making tough choices to generate more revenue from the Web The free-versus-paid debate within b-to-b media probably won't be resolved anytime soon. It will evolve, just as surely as the delivery of business information via electronic devices. Amid a recovering yet still sickly economy, b-to-b publishers are first checking closely with their customers before making any significant moves to expand their products and services online. ALM's Real Estate Media Group, for example, recently pulled the trigger on a paid model with the October debut of Distressed Assets Investor (DAI), an online publication targeting commercial real estate professionals engaged in the buying and selling of troubled assets. (The move was made soon after ALM announced that it had separated from Incisive Media in a debt-for-equity restructuring.) DAI, with a monthly frequency, costs $349 for an annual subscription, said Michael Desiato, VP-group publisher of ALM's Real Estate Media Group, which publishes Real Estate Forum and “We surveyed the field and found the audience was receptive to a subscription-based model,” Desiato said, adding that the collapse of the housing market last year helped push the debut of the online publication. “Distressed assets are a growth industry, and investors need field-level guidance on locating distressed assets.” The first issue was sent on a trial basis to 100,000 people from ALM Real Estate Media Group's database. Within a few weeks, 150 people had converted to a paid subscription, Desiato said, adding that he expects to generate 1,500 paid subscribers within two years. The first few issues are being distributed to the group's entire database; starting in December, DAI will be sent to subscribers of (50,000). Each issue has a single sponsor. ALM is also planning a Distressed Assets sponsorship program that will tie together conferences, print advertising, video and webinars, Desiato said. The e-mail newsletter features embedded video and links to related content, such as data from content partners. Content partners include Real Capital Analytics and Trepp, which are providing data on specific properties and commercial mortgage backed securities (CMBS) currently in some form of distress. ALM also offers a version of DAI for mobile devices and an audio reader option. “There are certain pieces of content that are exclusive and part of a VIP-type club membership,” Desiato said. “It's a specific niche that people are willing to pay for.” While ALM is pursuing a paid strategy with its latest offering, Advantage Business Media is sticking with an ad model for redesigns of Web sites of its R&D and Wireless Week, which were unveiled in late August. Advantage is betting that boosting the brands' presence throughout social media outlets, such as Digg, Facebook and Twitter, will land new prospects and customers. “We used to be a Web site that [repurposed] the magazine's content, and it was taking up quite a lot of space on the home page,” said Holly Hoffer, publisher of Wireless Week. “We wanted to change that to make the site more interactive and provide opportunities to start a conversation.” The upgrade of coincides with a cut in the frequency of its print companion, from nine issues this year to six in 2010. As part of the redesign, content from the print issue of Wireless Week is being replaced by content created strictly for the Web site one week following the print version's release. Advertisers also have new lead-gen options via registration-only content, including white papers, webcasts and video. Anritsu Corp., Qualcomm and Sprint have recently come on board. Since the redesign, unique monthly visitors have increased by 18%, to 308,040, while time spent on the site grew 31%, to a three-minute average per visit. In the last few months, the site had also garnered 4,445 followers on Twitter. “We're not going down the paid road,” Hoffer said. “Advertisers are telling us they want increased traffic, and through registration we can provide them with leads.” M
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