Online subscription sellers: Are you having any trouble with your bounce rates, handling expired cards, or Visa’s new regs on month-to-month charges?
I’ve been hearing murmurs from several (very) well known sites, so I’ve hired a writer who specializes in covering the credit card industry to do a special article on this stuff for ContentBiz. If you want to contribute info or questions, you can reach him directly at PNastu@msn.com.
Please be sure to let him know if you want to be quoted or anonymous. Thanks.
I’ve seen an upsurge in syndication deals and syndication-sales-hopes recently. Two examples: Financial Content who I first wrote
about two years ago have gone from selling a few clients $200 per month feeds to selling lots of clients $1500 per month feeds;
while Edmunds.com started powering the New York Times auto pages last week. http://www.nytimes.com/autos/
Yes there is a little more money these days, and far fewer players scrambling for their slice of the pie. I suspect the true reason for some sites’ success is service. You’re not in the content industry, you’re in the service industry. The easier you can make it to buy content from you, the more you’ll sell licenses.
In the case of my two examples, Financial Content’s site’s testimonials all focus on that service aspect. “Your team was
always accessible, helpful and willing to do what it takes to get the job done.” writes one client. “Implementation has been remarkably seamless and smooth,” says another.
This Monday Edmunds.com launched a major site revamp with the specific goal of “offering unsurpassed flexibility and
modularity for efficient syndication.”
On a side note, last Friday night I was chatting with Seana Mulcahy VP, Director of Interactive Media Mullen whose team buys
hundreds of millions of dollars in online ads each year.
“Online publishers make it impossible to buy from them!” she ranted. She’s one of many media buyers who are increasingly frustrated with the lack of standards so art departments have to resize and redo ads constantly for each different site (the cost of which really adds up) and how hard it is to make an integrated ad buy across all of a single media company’s channels without negotiating and cutting multiple insertion orders.
Online advertising is to some degree also a service business. Being easier to buy from than your competitor may be a highly
significant advantage. It’s not content + eyeballs = profits. It’s content + friendly service = profits.
Rob Palmer over at Freelance Work Exchange wrote in to proudly say that he’s just hit 1,400 members paying $30 month for the
subscription service which serves people want to work freelance from home. The site uses a wide variety of clever subscription marketing tactics to capture the order, or failing that capture your email for future marketing efforts, including:
- A 7-day free trial, but you have to submit your credit card to get it started
- A content offer that appears to be worth more than the cost of the first month’s subscription right away. In this case an
ebook that’s full of advice for freelance professionals.
- Community to keep subscribers involved.
- A grey, functional, join-list pop-up that doesn’t require you to type in your email, just click “ok” button.
- Hugely benefit-oriented copy written using the language the target market uses themselves.
- More than 100 testimonials (and a link on the home page nav bar reading “100 testimonials”).
- A real-guy photo of the site publisher looking like, well a real trustworthy guy. Not clipart or a slick salesman.
It’s a combo between an ebook, community and classified jobs site. Interesting idea.
My god I’m underpricing! Interactive Publishing who just put on a conference in Zurich are offering their transcript with the
ruminations of 20 experts on what will happen in interactive publishing 2003-2005 for 830EUR (about US$889). You can get a 4-page summary for free here which includes a very nice group photo of the speakers smiling together as they think about future online profits.
The main finding? Speakers felt that only 20-30% of the revenue potential of online has been realized. Plus they felt much online
media was too “mass” in nature which pleases neither users nor advertisers who want to get niche, targeted, and personal in a
way only online can provide. (Long scary link).
[In contrast my ContentBiz event transcripts are just $149. If you buy a ticket you get one free, but ooh that was a
shameless plug wasn't it?]
Joseph Meth just wrote in that after a year of dev, he’s launched Subscription Connection, a site where consumers can go to learn more about paid online subscriptions. He says, “Our vision is for SubscriptionConnection to become The Subscriber’s Home, the one resource you need to evaluate, compare, select, purchase, access and manage this portfolio of online paid content.”
I’ve heard variations on this before, most notably from the folks at now-defunct Newsletters.com which hoped to sell consumers subscriptions to print and PDF newsletters from a wide variety of publishers.
The problem is Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “Hey I’ve got to buy a subscription today.” Instead they say stuff like, “I’ve got to lose that weight” “get a better job”, “get rich” “have fun with my hobby” whatever. If the SubscriptionConnection is hoping to market itself as a branded site to go to for subscriptions, I don’t think it will fly.
If, however, the Company focuses on being an online marketing agent/agency for subscription sites that uses a wide variety of pushy tactics (SEO, email, ezine ads, etc.) to help each site, it might work. Many of the larger consumer sub sites have affiliate programs already set up to pay a bounty per new head. If you can sell lots, and your customers lifetime value proves out on the back-end, you’ve got a business.
You probably already heard, Google has bought Pyra Labs the ASP that powers Blogger which is the most famous and popular blogging software out there.
The biggest change for the approx 200k active Blogs using Pyra’s system (1.1 mill are registered, but just like email newsletter’s “3rd issue syndrome,” a lot of folks start writing Blogs and run out of steam quickly) will be that Pyra’s hosting service, Blogspot.com, will move onto Google’s massive servers.
Which is a happy thing because Blogspot is infamous for crashing. In fact it was down this morning as I tried to Blog this online. (You newsletter readers are seeing it before it goes “live.”)
Google has always been a huge supporter of blogs; to the point where many online content folks have found it’s easier to get your Blog entries indexed by Google than it is to get your regular site indexed all the time. A few publishers, including myself, have started Blogs almost more as search engine marketing tools for our main sites as anything else.
Reportedly, every portal out there is now in the process of adding Blog tools to their offerings, just as they once all rushed to add news headlines and free email services.
The best, and first, coverage of the Google acquisition is here on reporter Dan Gilmor’s journal. He includes useful links to other coverage as well (cut and paste both parts if this breaks):
Larry Peryer, whose company LP Visions handles marketing and biz dev for several entertainer’s subscription Web sites, including DavidBowie.com, RollingStones.com, HansonNet and GaitherNet, wrote me to say he wants to start a community of businesses like his to share info.
To start, he’s running a private survey for others who run entertainer’s sub web sites. It’s anonymous, but you can get the results at no cost if you participate. Larry asks that you only participate if you are in this specific niche industry, he doesn’t want other sub sites throwing off results.
You can participate here:
You can join his newsletter for club managers here:
SpamArrest has shocked the anti-spam community this week by: Spamming. SpamArrest is a system that quarantines all incoming messages that are not pre-approved until the sender has had a chance to “confirm” that he’s a real person (not a spammer or bulk sender) by clicking through to the SpamArrest site and typing in a code from an image that is not computer-readable. Once the sender confirms, then all subsequent mail from that person is approved. To many people this sounded like a great system to stop spam.
Of course, the senders of the messages had absolutely no idea that by sending email to a person (they had no way of knowing was using SpamArrest), they were agreeing to receive marketing offers from the spam-prevention system selected by that person.
Their addresses were, in effect, harvested from the inbox of SpamArrest users. This would be comparable to Yahoo deciding to harvest the email addresses of anyone who sent you email at your Yahoo account, and marketing to them. Boy, I hope Hotmail doesn’t hear about this; it may give them an idea for email marketing.
This is an outrage. According to spamNEWS, Daryn at SpamArrest claimed, “We didn’t think it was spam; we thought it was a valid marketing idea. I’m guessing we won’t do it again.” Yea. Right. I guess it depends on what the meaning of “is” is.
If you value your friend’s and colleagues privacy, stop using SpamArrest immediately. This kind of abuse casts a pall on all these “challenge-response” approaches to preventing spam.
I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent hunched over a
monitor with my Web designer while we tweak and tweak and tweak
so everything that is critical is above the fold.
I am the queen of paring a word here, changing a type-size there,
moving a graphic by a pica or so.
The critical stuff that has got to be above the fold (the spot
where viewers have to start scrolling to see the rest of your
site) is obviously anything you want people to take action on.
Although viewers’ monitors can be different sizes and set at
different display sizes, you used to be pretty safe if you made
sure your critical content was visible on a 15″ monitor (measured
diagonally) set at 800×600.
(Nobody’s Web designer’s monitor is set at that. They usually
have huge monitors set at 1024×786 which makes stuff look teeny
tiny. Which is why as a marketer, you always have to make sure
you view design on a different screen.)
The other day I surfed over to check on one of our old promo
sites that I had not visited in several months.
Gasp! The “subscribe” box was below the fold. I began to moan.
It took hours to get that darn thing up high enough when we first
designed the site. What happened?
The short answer: Google toolbar.
I am a tech-dummy so I did not realize that when you add stuff such
as Google’s toolbar to your screen, that means the window you see
Web sites in gets necessarily smaller. The fold is higher,
and higher up the page.
The fold is a moving target.
Moral of the story: Move everything critical higher up than you
thought you had to. Watch your click reports from your home
page over time to see if there are any trends on which links get
clicks, and which are missed.
Just tripped over the Blogging Network which launched last fall. It’s an interesting combo of business models. The founders have gotten a whole bunch of bloggers (including a few slightly famous-names such as the author of Planet of the Apes) to agree to be subscription-only via the Network which charges wanna-be-blog-readers $2.99 per month for access. As co-founder ‘Humayun”s letter on the site says, “[asking for] donations — doesn’t work for online writing. Reader reactions range from “giving a donation is slightly stressful” to “I will not voluntarily give money to a [blog].”
Most of the subscription fees collected are redistributed back to the Network bloggers to pay them for their content. Based on current sales, the Network claims it will distribute about $10,000 this year to its Bloggers. Which may be enough to pay for a pack of gum to chew while you type. In a fun twist, when you click to see individual blogger’s pofiles on the Network, it also shows you how much money they’ve earned so far. Humayun himself has made $3.24 to date including forecasts.
The Network is advertising via pay pay click ads on Google on keywords that people who would like to make money as writers might search. It’s also offering a $5 bounty per referred friend for current subscribers and potential affiliates.