The Alphr bet: How changing tech culture can change a publisher’s strategy

Tech-savvy decision makers are the acid test for publishers: If they’re not reading your articles there’s no reason to expect anyone else will, either. They’re the first to get aboard new trends and the first to abandon them if something shinier/easier/better appears. 

That can be anathema to many publishers who rely on the staid and steady nature of their audiences to support their long-running products. There’s a reason why ‘consumer loyalty’ is still so high on many legacy publishers’ list of priorities, because they still subsist primarily on print revenue generated by those loyal readers.

But many B2B or tech-focused publishers don’t have that luxury – their audiences are the tech-savvy elite who embraced digital early, or who are the most likely to have adopted ad-blocking tools early. That’s why we’re typically seeing the tech-focused or B2B publishers adopting more diverse revenue generation strategies, or changing their central product completely to better appeal to the new demands of their audiences.

Changing demographics

One of the best examples of that is Alphr, the tech-focused site from Dennis Publishing, which was launched just over seven months ago following the closure of the digital side of its flagship print product PC Pro as a direct response to the cultural changes among its audience.

Paul Hood is Dennis’ head of digital for its technology division. He explains why that decision needed to be made:

“We created Alphr in recognition that the type of people who are making decisions about technology procurement in businesses is a much wider group of senior business decision makers than just the IT director.

“We felt that there wasn’t a technology content proposition in the marketplace that really addressed their requirements in a way that was interesting, inspiring, relevant, and we felt there was a bit of a gap to be filled.”

That realisation meant Dennis had to reappraise where the newly launched Alphr sat among the rest of its products – if the audience demographics had broadened, it meant that there could be overlap between some of its titles. Nevertheless Hood is clear that was seen as an advantage rather than something to be grappled with:

“We’re seeing that we’ve got a broader range of audience segments than ever before, and we’re really comfortable with that.

“There seems to be this headlong rush in media generally to reach the Millennial audience – while we recognise they’re an important group and we of course want to be able to deliver their content in a way that they choose to consume and is relevant to them, they’re by no means the only valuable core audience group.” 

As a result of that demographic shift, the content published on Alphr is much broader than would have been published on the PC Pro site had it continued to exist. There’s much more discussion of the ways by which technology is affecting our lives that sits alongside the typical tech reviews and tips.

It’s an acknowledgement that, just as the purchasing and management of technology is no longer the preserve of an office IT manager, nor is interest in technological developments limited to those people either.

alphr-traffic-january.jpg

And as a result, Alphr has seen an increase in its web performance over the months since its launch, while the sites it considers to be its more direct competitors have largely stayed flat or decreased.

The broadening of the content strategy and demographic has also allowed Alphr to diversify its revenue strategy somewhat. Hood explains:

“Of course we’re aware of the challenges around ad-blocking and viewability and all those kinds of things that all publishers face. Display is obviously still a primary revenue source, and on that front we make sure the site is very clean and uncluttered so there’s only two to three ad slots per page, large formats in viewable positions.

“Lead generation is another really important and fast-growing area.”

Lead generation is, at present, most closely associated with the B2B sector. IDG’s Michael Friedenberg, for instance, considers it to be one of the ‘below-the-line’ sources of revenue that will provide publishers with the biggest opportunities for growth in the coming years. Notably, Friedenberg has also noted that the demographic for tech-focused publishing has shifted towards the mainstream, and IDG has adjusted its own publishing strategy as a result.

It all hearkens back to what Hood believes is the cultural shift that both demanded and enabled the launch of Alphr as a standalone product, rather than as an extension of the PC Pro brand:

“The kinds of people who lead these purchases tend to also be lovers of technology in the rest of their lives, no matter what their job title, and Alphr.com was designed from the ground up to appeal them. Their interests are broad, so that it’s not just about the computer – they also want the most technologically advanced watch, entertainment systems, and car too. They’re ambitious, intelligent, and actually quite hard to reach, particularly in the UK.”

So reaching that tech-savvy crowd may be the acid test for publishers, one that B2B and technology focused publishers are having to face before much of the rest of the industry. But as Alphr’s early success has shown, it’s one that can have enormous benefits for publishers if they’re clever about how they engage with their changing audiences.

By | 2016-02-11T00:01:00+00:00 February 11th, 2016|Analysis|Comments Off on The Alphr bet: How changing tech culture can change a publisher’s strategy

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