Elsevier Business Intelligence, a biopharmaceutical, medical device and consumer health publishing group within Elsevier, recently began taking a more proactive approach to tracking and analyzing how its customers interact with its online paid content. A new analytics package called Outsell Scout Analytics offered through Outsell Inc. has enabled the group to quickly produce reports that have, within the first few months of use, identified opportunities to add new interface features and optimize revenue allocations.
In the free content, advertising-based model, publishers have been moving quickly to expand their knowledge of how users behave and engage with their digital products in an effort to provide advertisers with richer information about their audience. There’s no reason why the same can’t be done within a paid content model.
In cases where publishers have found success with a fee-based digital content business, knowing more about users and how they’re accessing and using the content they buy can have meaningful revenue implications. But in some cases, standard analytics packages fall short in this type of environment.
"We have been using various analytical programs, the way they’re typically used," says Adam Gordon, vice president, e-strategy and development for Elsevier Business Intelligence. "One of the challenges with them is that typically the analytics data is isolated. You can differentiate between new and returning visitors, but if you want to look at usage for VP-level people and above versus director level, or by marketing versus finance, or by device companies versus consulting companies, that degree of information typically isn’t in your analytics package."
Like most publishers, Elsevier Business Intelligence, by virtue of the registration process, has collected a fair amount of information on the group’s audience. Likewise, the team has been diligent in tagging content within the CMS. Marrying this data together to determine what job functions are attracted to specific types of content has been problematic. Gordon says most reports were time consuming to create and had to be reproduced from scratch each time the team wanted to see an update.
"What Outsell Scout Analytics promises is the ability to capture that same type of analytical information-who’s viewing what pages-and then integrate the customer data from our CRM system and the content information from our CMS and lets us look at those different views," adds Gordon.
Further, and here’s where the revenue rubber meets the road, the package also enables Gordon to determine usage patterns.
Elsevier Business Intelligence sells content on a per-article basis ($25-$100 each), subscriptions ($600 to $2,000 each) and through site licenses ($300,000 to $500,000 per year). Site licenses are the ultimate conversion, and, therefore, a primary focus from both strategic and customer support perspectives.
"The [report] presentation is designed specifically to address some of the business issues that we face like unauthorized usage, not enough usage, disparities in pricing and usage. So, it gives you that kind of view out of the box as opposed to having to export data and having to manipulate it," says Gordon.
For example, Gordon says service providers, customers that are consulting companies or media firms, have much higher usage patterns than other customer groups. This discovery has prompted discussions around adjusting or changing the pricing models and interface features. Gordon says they’re considering adding a "charge-back" feature that allows consulting companies to identify their client and record the cost as a charge-back to that client.
Gordon adds that some of the value-add content that’s been used to help promote the paid content has been more widely used than expected, triggering a possible revenue opportunity.
Overall, the revenue implications are not insignificant. According to Matt Shanahan, senior vice president of strategy at Scout Analytics, research the company has conducted indicates that site licenses often become mismatched with their customers. "Typically, 20 to 30 percent of the accounts really aren’t matched against how the licensing was originally intended," he says. "That creates a huge potential to get people to use the service more so they don’t churn or defect. It also shows where there might have been too much discounting or if there’s unlicensed use."
While publishers don’t typically recoup all 20 or 30 percent of that potential, says Shanahan, half of it is within reach. "What is realized tends to be about half of that. So, over time they will usually realize a 10 to 15 percent lift on the revenue."