Understanding customers essential to building successful revenue models

The need for news organisations to build a loyal consumer base to monetise digital content and generate more revenue has never been greater than it is today.

by WAN-IFRA External Contributor | November 13, 2019

Above: Winnie Sun, APAC Lead of Manifesto Growth Architects, at WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Asia Conference in late October in Hong Kong.

By Ananta Agarwal

News consumption patterns have changed, and a disrupted media industry can no longer rely solely on advertising revenue to fund quality journalism.

An increasing number of news organisations are investing in content, with 59 percent of the media outlets surveyed for the 2019 Membership Economics Report showing an increase in the budget allotted to editorial content.

The main questions that arise are: What kind of content should news organisations invest in? How will that content generate the kind of revenue news organisations need?

During WAN-IFRA’s recent Digital Media Asia conference in Hong Kong, Winnie Sun, APAC Lead of Manifesto Growth Architects, discussed how digital media outlets are transforming and what they should do to keep up with the changing media landscape.

Know your customer — gather data

Sun described the two main customer types. Customer A is the standard anonymous customer from whom media outlets primarily make money via advertisement revenue and affiliate money.

Customer B is a loyal core customer and a digital subscriber who is a source of both subscription and advertisement revenue. This customer clearly has far more value to publishers.

To turn the less valuable Customer A into a paying customer or a regular reader who generates more revenue, media outlets need to recognise them and address them accordingly.

“You probably have a lot more data hidden in the pockets of your organisation. Once you understand how to leverage that data, you can get more money from your customers. And once you understand where they are along value curve, you can start thinking about what kind of content is likely to drive that value,” – Winnie Sun, APAC Lead of Manifesto Growth Architects

For example, The Wall Street Journal gathered data on half of its customer profiles by combining information acquired from different divisions of the company, such as marketing, sales and IT.

Using that data, it was able to score a targeted advertisement agreement with American Airlines due

Categorise your content — what generates the most value?

Sun also highlighted that media organisations need to divide their content into different categories and then analyse which kind of content generates more value. Political commentaries usually generate subscriptions and a loyal consumer base.

On the other hand, a cooking column can build new usage habits in the reader. The media organisation can then monetise that column with grocery related targeted advertisements.

News organisations can engage with their customers by giving them the content they want. If they can keep these customers, they can generate more revenue from them. This can then be used to increase investment in that valuable content.

“If you spend the time to understand your customer, all the ways you can monetise your customer and then tie in the content you have to serve your customer really is worthwhile,” – Winnie Sun, APAC Lead of Manifesto Growth Architects

Fox News faced a similar challenge. However, in this case, the subscription-based cable news outlet already had committed consumers, so what more could it give to those who were already getting their content as part of their cable package?

By analysing customer data and news consumption patterns, the company mapped out all the possibilities news consumers were willing to pay for. It then launched Fox Nation, an opinion-based streaming service with an annual price of $60 that is on its way to gaining 1.5 million subscribers by 2021.

“It is a little bit of investment to start this process,” said Sun. “But I do want to call out that the cost of not doing it is equally high.”

Author Ananta Agarwal is an undergraduate student in the University of Hong Kong pursuing a double major in Journalism and English.


WAN-IFRA External Contributor

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