IMAG ’10 Coverage: A Solid Product Idea and Several Tips from Ogden Publications

Bryan Welch shares his thoughts on improving revenue per audience member

Bryan Welch, President & GM of Ogden Publications, Inc. defines the business he’s in as “audience aggregation”.  He reminded publishers at the IMAG conference that part of Google’s success is that they focused their mission on search. They were very committed to that mission and their revenue then followed via advertising.

Similarly, we should define our business with such relentless focus and view each new subscriber as a mini-acquisition, worthy of close following and proper metrics analysis. Welch says, “it’s nutty that the biggest fulfillment companies can not integrate the databases.”

Ogden, publishers of 10 rural lifestyle magazines including Mother Earth News, Utne Reader and Grit Magazine grows its database using direct mail, product buyers, online sources, card decks and insert cards.

Ban “rate base” label, avoid irrelevant freemiums

Welch shared his thoughts on using the term “rate base”. “It is profoundly wrong to call our audience that,” said Welch. It shows that the reason for our existence is advertising, when in reality, our business is to serve our customers.

He also suggested avoiding the use of freemiums that are not directly related to your content. “You do not want sweepstakes interest for things that aren’t related to your magazine,” said Welch.

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Success with auto-renewals

Auto renewals are an earth-friendly renewal option giving customers the ability to automatically renew their subscription at the guaranteed lowest price. Auto-renewals didn’t work for Ogden until they called it earth-friendly. “Then our readers were all over it,” said Welch.

Mother Earth News has an annual renewal rate over 72% – almost a third of which is made up of auto-renews. They gained 7 points on that percentage in last 2 years from auto-renewal. The renewal rate of auto-renews is in the 90s.

Free does not destroy value of content

Several years ago Ogden digitized 34 years of print archives of Mother Earth News magazine. They spent 80K to digitize the archives and had no idea how to monetize it at the time. They decided to put the archive on CDs, launched it and 6 weeks later they paid off the digitization. Most were sold on the website  – in the free archive! This was a big ah-ha moment for them, proving that people will pay for content in one medium that they can get for free in another.

For more coverage of IMAG ’10:

IMAG ’10 Coverage: PixelMags Shows the Importance and Potential Behind Apps

IMAG ‘10 Coverage: Audience Development Best Practices

IMAG-MPA 2010 Conference Coverage

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