Creating New Value: How Harvard Business Review Leverages Its Archives
A conversation with Ania Wieckowski, senior editor of Branded Lines and Folio: Show speaker.
Ania Wieckowski knows how to create value and new revenue from existing content. At Harvard Business Review, Wieckowski is the senior editor of Branded Lines, where she works to monetize old content — sometimes dating back a century, to help drive additional revenue and showcase its relevance. At the publication, paying subscribers have unlimited access to its vast archive base, including its top 50 articles, the magazine itself, email newsletters, customizable slide decks and infographics.
As a featured speaker at the 2017 Folio: Show, Wieckowski will speak at a session entitled, “How to Create New Value From Existing Content Assets.” Here, she tells Folio: how to leverage existing content to create new value, revenue and engagement.
Folio: What are some ways HBR leverages its archives to create new value for subscribers?
Ania Wieckowski: Beyond including it in our subscription, one of our most successful approaches for generating revenue from HBR‘s archive has been curating it in book form, creating a-la-carte products available to consumers who aren’t necessarily subscribers (but often are). Our “branded lines” team now publishes 10+ books per year in a number of different series. Each series offers up our archive content for a different purpose or reader.
For example, some focus on high-level concepts and frameworks (strategy, leadership, change management) and others on very practical how-to’s (creating persuasive presentations, learning finance basics, giving feedback). They’re sold in print and ebook formats through HBR.org and major bookshops and online retailers, and bring in a significant part of HBR Press’s revenue; the program is now almost eight years old and we’re still growing at around 15 percent per year.
These volumes are particularly popular at travel outlets like airports and train stations. We’ve heard from some subscribers that they originally came to our brand through a book that they bought at one of these outlets, and then were moved to become subscribers because they found the content so valuable. So we think that these books have also value for us beyond the revenue they bring in directly.
Folio: How does the HBR team determine which past articles are “evergreen” or maintain fresh impact?
Wieckowski: When we hear from our readers that they’re interested in a particular topic or management problem, an editor will do a deep dive through the archive, reading a comprehensive swath of the articles on that topic, talking with long-time editors with deep institutional knowledge, and also looking at trending pageview data and article sale data, publicity coverage, and the general impact of the articles over time. Our editors are also familiar with current management trends, so we have a good sense of what is outdated or no longer relevant.
Our editors also actively commission some articles with the idea that they will be more evergreen than others. A small team of us gathers monthly to pick a perennial management problem, and then we spend the next few weeks acquiring practical articles that address it. We also commission “best practice” articles that synthesize advice from a number of experts on a particular topic. These articles end up in our collections a lot because they maintain their relevance by design.
Wieckowski: One of our biggest challenges is a good one to have: we just have so much great content that maintains its value over time. Our principle in addressing this has been that “less is more”: that curation of our archive down to just a few of the most important articles on each topic is valuable for readers because it saves them time.
Another challenge we’ve given ourselves recently is how to move the success of our print collection products—mostly books—to our website as a benefit for subscribers. What does curation look like on the web? How is it different than in a print book that’s a discrete, for-sale product? How valuable will it be for our readers? We’re working on these questions.
Folio: What are some of the best strategies you’ve found to be successful for re-promoting archive articles on social platforms? How do you measure that success?
Wieckowski: Some of our most successful efforts have been around “unlocking” an archive article from behind our paywall for a week, and touting that it’s free for non-subscribers for a limited time. We’ve seen a lot of clicks to those articles, good engagement (time on page), and also conversions to subscription from that program.
We also always keep our eyes open for specific events — whether in the news, or driven by an author’s activities — that match up well with articles we’ve published. There was a massive snow day on the east coast a few years ago and we reposted our piece on “5 Ways to Work from Home More Effectively”; we didn’t even mention anything about the snow in the post, and it ended up taking off organically.
For more information about the Folio: show on October 9-11, please click here.