ABM Conference sessions offer advice on shifting business focus to users
May 1, 2012 - Embracing the theme of ABM's Annual Conference this year, speakers on several topics in yesterday's sessions made related points. That theme, "The Customer-Driven Future," was echoed in presentations on optimizing average revenue per user, treating readers as more than low-value leads, and making users "feel like they are part of the publications they love," according to Justin Greeves, corporate VP, research at e.republic.
Greeves, speaking at a session titled "What's Your Audience Worth," said that 360 degree engagement with the audience is key to maximizing that value. Moreover, "information" is less valuable than "intelligence," he said, urging the media and info execs gathered at the conclave, "don't settle for data."
At the same session, Virgo CEO John Siefert used the analogy of a "ladder of engagement" to encourage publishers to give users different entry points for engagement. Each rung on the ladder represents a piece of deliverable content, which, with the correct engagement vehicle in the right context, offers value to the user as well as to the publisher. For example, Siefert explained, a user on the first rung might click on a link; then read an article; then download some free content; then register with the site; and then buy paid content. "I know exactly how much they are worth to me," he said, "depending on where they are on the ladder."
At another session, titled "Audience Listening," Amandeep Sandhu also talked about prioritizing high value users. Sandhu, the director of audience engagement and analytics at UBM Electronics, suggested that emphasizing low value users, for example, through a lead generation model, forces the content company to look for sheer numbers, and once the lead is handed off to the marketer, the value of the lead to the content company is ended. He said that because advertisers seek a high ROI, they want the cheapest leads possible. "We believe the lead generation race is a race to the bottom," he said.
Therefore, Sandhu urged content providers to engage with their users, to value them. With careful analysis, it is possible to predict user behaviors, and then to correlate products with the customers that will need them. Once a media or information company has created a "trust relationship" with a user, deeper engagement follows. "It is key to listen to your customers, not your advertisers," he said. That way those customers will be receptive to new products you produce for them.
In a session on ABM's Managing Profits research, Scout Analytics SVP strategy Matt Shanahan quantized the value of individual users. By analyzing actual revenue and operational data reported by media and information companies, Shanahan calculated the average revenue per user (ARPU) that a brand can generate. For example, print brands reported median ARPU of $46 per user, with a max of $256 per user. Digital brands reported a median $58, max $2,713. And event brands reported a median $795, max $2,125. In general, print brands reported lower profitability and lower ARPUs, as well as declining annual revenue. According to Shanahan, looking at the ARPU and profitability numbers for a brand suggest strategies for improvement. A profitable brand with low revenue per user has a high ceiling for developing new revenue from those existing users, so cultivating them may offer even better returns. A brand with an already high revenue per user needs to instead reach out to attract new users.
The conference continues through today, May 1, with sessions on topics including paid content and driving content creation through audience development and analytics, among others.