Why You Need to Experiment with Content Sponsorship
Every type of content is facing downward pricing pressure. Free online news has disrupted the newspaper industry. Free article-length content has impacted the magazine model. Free and cheap ebooks have completely upended the book publishing world.
It's time for publishers to think more broadly and creatively about multiple streams of income. Many are too focused on protecting the streams they already have and worry about the cannibalization potential of new models. Those publishers are only contributing to their own demise.
No matter what type of content you're producing, why wouldn't you consider at least testing the sponsorship model?
Here's what I'm suggesting: Find a business partner who values your content, your brand and your audience. Sit down with them to determine what you both can offer each other and gauge their sponsorship interest. Then pick a product, determine the publicity campaign, nail down the offer and make it happen.
Here are three scenarios based on what type of publisher you are:
- Newspapers: Give away an entire day's e-edition. The whole thing, not just a section or two. Make sure the sponsor's message is prominent so readers can appreciate the great thing this sponsor has done for them, the reader. Feeling bold? Why not make it free for an entire week? Btw, plan ahead and sell special advertising pages, and don't forget to count all those new digital ad impressions you'll get from this free access.
- Magazines: Similar to the newspaper model, but now you're probably talking about one weekly or monthly edition. But why not make this a richer edition with more features than what you typically offer? Think video content that's currently behind your paywall, for example.
- Books: Yours isn't a subscription model with new editions every week/month so you need to focus even more on the length of time you extend the free offer. Don't go through a retailer! Just give readers the ebook right on your website; that way you'll know who those readers are and you'll be able to build a direct relationship with them.
Each model is slightly different but there's a common thread throughout: dramatically expanded reach. Be sure to have a plan for all those names and email addresses you're gathering. Don't let them just sit in a spreadsheet that nobody ever takes action on. In fact, force your team to come up with a detailed follow-up plan before you ever launch the campaign.
This is an opportunity to dramatically increase your product's reach. It's not about giving something extra to your current subscribers; this is all about finally building a relationship with all those other prospective customers. It's also about building a solid relationship with your sponsorship partner. If they like the results, which means the sponsor gets more visibility for their brand and products, this could be step one of a much broader, ongoing sponsorship program for you business.
Here's another reason to do it: Even if you don't your competitor(s) probably will.
Joe Wikert is Publishing President at Our Sunday Visitor (www.osv.com). Before joining OSV Joe was Director of Strategy and Business Development at Olive Software. Prior to Olive Software he was General Manager, Publisher, & Chair of the Tools of Change (TOC) conference at O’Reilly Media, Inc., where he managed each of the editorial groups at O’Reilly as well as the Microsoft Press team and the retail sales organization. Before joining O’Reilly Joe was Vice President and Executive Publisher at John Wiley & Sons, Inc., in their P/T division.