Subscription model (finally) gains ground online


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ALM is one of the few companies that always charged readers for online access to content from its legal newspapers and subscription-based magazines. However, after Bill Carter became president-CEO last March, he identified an unrealized opportunity to increase user-paid revenue; one of his major initiatives in the second half of 2012 was the launch of a program to sell subscriptions to law firms and other businesses. “One of our big efforts has been building a corporate subscription sales organization,” Carter said. This team now calls on corporate accounts directly and helps customize companywide digital subscriptions that package magazines such as flagship The American Lawyer with regional legal newspapers that fit the firms' geographic profiles. “This is solution selling,” Carter said. “In the past, the conversation was something like, "Here's why you should buy The American Lawyer.' Now we ask, "What are your needs?'” In general, corporate subscriptions result in higher revenue for ALM than individual subscriptions from that same firm would have yielded in the past. “Customers understand that we are providing more value to more users,” he said. The sales team initially concentrated on selling corporate subscriptions to ALM's media assets, but Carter is testing the possibility of having them also sell research and business intelligence products. “This is very new, but we're training our sales organization to have a broader conversation with our client base,” he said. Increasing paid content revenue is also an important 2013 initiative at Access Intelligence, said Donald Pazour, president-CEO. “I foresee that we can achieve revenue growth because we're introducing e-commerce sales of content and the execution of site licenses,” he said. Equivalent to the corporate subscription model at ALM, Access Intelligence's site licenses provide unlimited access to a brand's content and archives, as well as push emails, for a number of people within a company for a set price. “Two things happen with site licenses,” Pazour said. “One, you get a little more money and, since you're delivering everything electronically, it doesn't cost more. Second—and the big win—is that renewals are about 95% as opposed to 85% for individual subscriptions. This is because you have deeper penetration within a company, more people advocating for your content, and the cost to change for them is higher.” At McGraw-Hill Construction, Engineering News-Record has had a paid content model online since 2005, said Keith Fox, president. “As people's behavior has changed and the value of content is acknowledged, we have found that people are willing to pay for ENR's content,” he said. ENR's bundled subscription includes the print edition as well as full access to all digital content, including archives, newsletters, and the ENR News App. ENR's content revenue has increased four-fold over the past seven years. Based on that success, “we are currently exploring creating a similar pay model for Architectural Record,” Fox said.

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