A personal preview of Paywall Strategies 2012 - The premier digital media strategy event

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Rory Brown, TheMediaBriefing Experts' Blog

Paywall Strategies 2011: Steve Hewlett, Mike Soutar, Matt McAllister

On February 23 2012 TheMediaBriefing will be organising our second Paywall Strategies conference. We’re delighted with how the programme is shaping up and also with the quality of the people from around the world who are registering to attend.

At the time of our first event last year there was a lot of confusion about the different models publishers were using to monetise online content. In London, the Times had just launched its total lockdown paywall policy and was attracting huge amounts of commentary. The Financial Times was being showcased as a thought leader with its "metered" approach and various business and consumer media companies were experimenting with "freemium" strategies and site licences.

Paywall Strategies 2011 conference provided one of the first opportunities to explore the complexity of the online content marketplace. It set the agenda for a lot of companies and corporate strategies were clearly set off the back of the presentations at the conference.

Now, for our follow-up event in February, we want to go a lot deeper. There is no signposted roadmap of how to approach the digital transition of media businesses. We’re in the very early days of a significant structural shift of business models but… many companies are making good headway. They have both experience and clear data points to share.

At Paywall Strategies 2012, attendees will hear from some of the most innovative media firms – across newspapers, business, consumer and digital media. You can view the programme as it stands here but I would also like to personally highlight some of the sessions I’m most looking forward to:

Digital product development

I believe there is a general acceptance that the things customers will pay for online are often very different from your offline offerings. At the conference we will hear from people like Fotini Liontou, the CEO of Lloyd’s List, one of the oldest newspapers in the world, covering global shipping markets.

Fotini and her team at Informa have spent a huge amount of time listening to their readers and developing the Lloyd’s List Intelligence product. At Paywall Strategies she will share that experience with delegates and pass on some of the lessons learned. In this session she will be joined by Jon Bentley from Incisive Media and Tom Whitwell from The Times.

Pricing models for online content

If, like me, you subscribe to a cable or satellite TV package, it is likely that this is your single biggest digital content purchase. But how do companies like Sky draw you in to spend, and keep you subscribing? In this session Jimmy Gasteen – formerly a senior pricing analyst at Reed Elsevier and now founder of a new company, Precursive – will share some of the secrets of pricing strategies. He will look at packaging of products; the psychological price points customers react to and talk about "lead" and "filler" products. I am certain you will come away from this session with some pricing tips that will pay for your delegate place many times over.

Monetise your customers – not just your content

It is very easy to get hung up on the debate about which form of paywall strategy is appropriate for your company’s content. However, it might be that you are looking at things in the wrong way.

What if, instead of asking what content is valuable and what pricing model we should employ, we instead thought about our audience. Our customers congregate around our brands for many reasons and there are multiple ways of profiting from that community. Various media firms are looking at ecommerce or affiliate schemes. At this session we will hear from Duncan Tickell, the commercial director of newly formed Immediate Media. The company was formed from a combination of BBC Magazines, Magicalia and Origin Publishing and this will be one of the first events where Duncan will be able to talk about the new business models that are emerging.

These are just three of the sessions that I am particularly looking forward to but there are many more. We have a great crowd of interesting media folk coming and, as always, one of the main opportunities of event like this is to build your personal network of people who are facing the same challenges that you are.

I very much hope that you will be able to make the conference and look forward to meeting you in London in February.

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