I’d like to share a conversation I had recently with a colleague regarding charging for content. This person was asked why our company was charging a registration fee for a virtual panel when most others are not. Fair question to ask. As a media company, our product—our skill—is high-level content creation and the distribution of that content along with developing strategic opportunities—in-person, digital, video, print, etc.—for our marketing partners to reach their target audience within our niche. The content is our product. It’s no different than Budweiser, which is an Anheuser-Busch product…and I haven’t seen them handing out free beers lately (believe me, I would have noticed).
When you take the time to use your skill and knowledge that you spent a career gathering, and leveraging relationships it took 20 years to foster, all to orchestrate an executive-level conversation to provide your industry peers with information and insight, I believe that is worth something. Not just for my company, but for all media companies publishing content of the highest level. We provide in-depth, free content all day, every day on websites, newsletters, video, social media and more. We do this for the good of the industry we serve. But, like you, to stay in business, we must make a profit. That profit allows us to continue to serve the industry we love.
How do we serve the industry? We report news, and provide insight and analysis every day, all day, on all platforms to help those in our industry make better business decisions and, therefore, make more profit for their organizations. We connect people to make deals, which leads to a higher profit. We cover products and services, helping companies get their message out to this market so they can succeed in their businesses. We are asked by countless companies every day if we would publish a story on them. Why? Because they understand the value we bring, and it will help their business. Do what? Make more profit. I think you get the point.
Remember the days when advertising positions on your website were given away as “added value” for a print media buy? If you do, you also must remember how difficult it was and how long it took to retrain your customers to understand the value of your digital advertising offerings. Once you give it away for free, you are essentially devaluing your own product. If you don’t value your product, who will?
I am seeing the same mistake made now as we all struggle to find our way through the COVID-19 crisis. Virtual panels, conferences and content have exploded—in fact, it’s the only means of gathering and having meaningful discussions as a group—yet most of them are free. Sponsorships are a good model and should also be part of the strategic plan, but in conjunction with registration fees. And even if both of these revenue generators are applied, it’s still a major challenge for media companies to make a profit right now. Media companies, like all others out there, must continue to adapt, innovate and push the envelope in an effort to serve their readership communities and marketing partners. And they should be paid to do so.
But wait, if I charge a fee, my registration numbers could potentially be low and then how do I sell sponsorships and measure success? Yes, the good-old numbers game. We all have to deal with it and, unfortunately, it’s the only way some companies know how to evaluate an opportunity. I can explain time and time again that B2B marketing is about the quality of decision-makers you’re reaching and not the quantity, and the next question will still be, “So how many people get your e-newsletter?”
An audience that spends a few dollars on a registration fee is more likely to engage in your event on a much higher level. That is a quality lead to your customer and, in my opinion, worth far more than a spreadsheet of unengaged contacts who registered for free but didn’t participate in your event. Also, it is our job as media executives to curate virtual panels and content that will attract paid registrants because the content is just too good to miss.
I play in a band, so bear with me as I offer a working musician’s analogy: I’d rather play a gig in front of 25 people who are singing and dancing all night, than in front of 250 people staring at the bar TV, eating free wings. Those 25 engaged people are more likely to come see my band again and help grow my following.
Media companies are an important strategic partner to any business, helping you get your corporate messages—both editorial content and paid marketing—out to the industry, your customers. You’re thinking: But anyone can be a publisher today. I’ll just start my own blog, newsletter or countless other digital communications out there. Well, you can absolutely do that, but it will not come with the third-party credibility and know-how a reputable media outlet brings. A credibility and trust it has taken that media company—and its executives—decades to establish.