Why SourceMedia Is Betting Big on Paid Content
An interview with Allison Adams, the B2B media company's newly hired chief subscription officer.
Major steps in the multi-year transformation aimed at fulfilling CEO Doug Manoni’s vision of SourceMedia as a digital and data-centric business have involved a complete overhaul of the company’s content management system, the introduction of new advanced marketing capabilities, and the launch of an ABM business, which the company has said drove a seven-figure increase in advertising revenues in its first year.
Perhaps less intuitive, however, is the emerging importance of the company’s paid content business, which it says now accounts for one-third of its overall revenue. Backing that claim is SourceMedia’s latest move, hiring Allison Adams as chief subscription officer—a newly created role responsible for marketing and selling subscriptions to the company’s various media brands, as well as developing new product lines.
“By establishing this new role, we reinforce our commitment to subscription growth,” said Manoni in an announcement earlier this month. “Allison brings unique qualifications, including strong, relevant experience in paid content for financial professionals.”
Folio: sat down with Adams—who joins SourceMedia from CFA Institute, where she served as head of content engagement and group publisher, after spending several years at Institutional Investor as a publisher and advertising director—to learn more about her immediate plans in the new role, and why SourceMedia sees a major opportunity in paid content going forward.
Folio: For starters, why has paid content become such a central part of SourceMedia’s overall strategy?
Allison Adams: SourceMedia has a very strong editorial team and they take editorial very seriously. That’s one of the things that attracted me to the company. When you think of great content, you think of subscriptions. Paid subscriptions are more predictable than other types of revenue streams, and they’re also very strong in creating audiences that you can leverage for other areas of the organization.
Subscriptions have traditionally been the cornerstone for a lot of organizations, and I think over time that sort of faded to the back in some B2B organizations, but SourceMedia has taken it very seriously.
Folio: What about SourceMedia’s audience is uniquely suited for that type of model?
Adams: I would say that the financial B2B community, which I’ve known for a long time, is looking for information which is going to save them time, they’re looking for predictive information when they can find it, and they’re looking to manage risk. These are all things we’re providing.
Folio: From your perspective, what’s the value in a typical subscription to one of SourceMedia’s brands?
Adams: I think SourceMedia’s content and editorial strategy is really to provide a lot more depth of analysis, data, information you’re not able to get from other places. So we need to look at what differentiates us and make sure we’re hitting the mark there, because there is a lot of free content out there.
Folio: How do you determine which types of readers you’re going to target for subscriptions?
Adams: We start with our core audience who knows us well, but at the same time we’re looking at those who are within the same organizations but perhaps don’t know our brands as well, especially those rising up through the ranks, understanding what they need and what they want. It’s a simultaneous approach. The goal, really, is to make sure we’re in the workflow of our audiences on a regular basis.
Folio: What are some of the ways you’re doing that?
Adams: I think mass surveys are fine, that’s one intelligence point. But also sitting down with our top customers, those who are not customers but are within our target audience. Asking them about their day, about their workflow, what are you spending time on that maybe SourceMedia could be providing to you?
And then also listening to those that are on the front lines within the organization here, our subscription sales team as well as our editorial team, who are spending all day on the phone or out with customers. One of the first things I did here was talk to both of those teams and say please, don’t hesitate to bubble ideas up, set up meetings with customers who have mentioned they’d like to see something different. It’s very much an open-door policy.
Folio: Is there a cultural shift involved in changing the way you’re doing things as a company?
Adams: I don’t know that I would call it a shift. The way we need to approach new businesses and increasing our subscriptions is really form a design thinking and a user-driven approach, and also a digital approach. SourceMedia has gone through a fantastic digital transformation in the past two years, and we need to really continue to embrace that and understand what our future looks like.
Folio: Does that impact the types of new skill sets you look at when you think about building out your own team?
Adams: We’re going to be incorporating behavioral technologies as much as we can, so how we can get support there is going to be very important, yes.
Something else SourceMedia does—which I think is interesting—is we take our taxonomy very seriously. That, to me, is extremely important. If we’re looking at how we deliver our content and start thinking about even going down to micro-selling or content streams of intelligence, it’s very important that we have the right tagging and taxonomy. We actually have a taxonomy team here in place at SourceMedia.
Folio: They work across all the brands?
Adams: Yes, across brands and very tightly with the editorial teams. That’s something that I’d like to dig a little bit more into here. I think organizations in paid content who take taxonomy seriously will greatly benefit as they look at new business models going forward.
Folio: What are some of your immediate priorities as you settle into the new role?
Adams: What I’m really looking at is audience-centric. What they’d like to see more of and what they’d like to see done differently. And then I’m also looking at the technology internally, as well as what we’re investing in, to see what it is we can do to leverage new innovations in Artificial Intelligence, in machine learning, and to see how we can use behavior trends to predict content themes as well as purchasing themes for our business models.
Folio: You’re only a couple of weeks into the new role, but what’s something you’ve learned so far?
Adams: If we look at content as an asset, one area that will continue to be interesting is looking at our unstructured content and how we can move it towards structure. Customers will pay for predictive data, predictive trends. If you can look back and pick through your archived content and find things that can be predictive, whether its about managing risks, or some data point that might be useful, you can find really good value for subscriptions.
We have rich brands, with rich archives, and a strong, engaged audience. When you have that combination, there’s a lot of room to grow your business and serve your audience.