How to make copy creative and profitable

This article is written by Piet van Niekerk and Pierre de Villiers 


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“In the 21st Century, creativity does not involve waiting for the Muse,” explained John Wilpers, Senior Director at Innovation Media Consulting (IMC) and co-author of the Innovation in Media 2020-2021 World Report. “Nor does it mean finding a use for the latest bright new shiny thing.”

Wilpers was sharing key insights from the new Innovation in Media World Report during a FIPP Insider Webinar hosted by FIPP President and CEO, James Hewes.

Quoting Nancy Gauss, Executive Director of video at The New York Times, Wilpers stressed that: “When we’re thinking about a premium subscription product in the competitive landscape, it really is about creating a differentiated unique product that’s worth paying for.”


Webinar video: John Wilpers reveals key insights from the new Innovation in Media World Report


Multiple opportunities

Identifying communities you can tap into is key to creating content that’s both creative and profitable. Publishers need to determine whether their audience self identifies as a part of a group, if this group has a connection to the region; whether there are multiple opportunities to generate revenue with the audience, and whether there is a reporter or team with a track record of attracting a readership.

“Our future success will be built around the value people see in our work – and the willingness to pay for it,” Wilpers pointed out, quoting Lauren Gustus, the West Region Editor for McClatchy (owner of The Sacramento Bee).

Yet, despite content value and a willingness to pay for it, it is also vital that publishers pay close attention to the user journey. This journey to convert users from visiting a website to become an active and continued subscriber is most critical, warns York Walterscheid, Managing Director of CeleraOne, a paid content solutions consultancy headquartered in Germany. He was speaking during FIPP’s Insider webinar series revealing the latest statistics from FIPP and CeleraOne’s quarterly Global Digital Subscription Snapshot.

“It is really important to understand the preferences and behaviour of each reader. First engage with the reader and then try to convert him or her into a subscription,” said Walterscheid. 


Webinar video: FIPP and CeleraOne launch Global Digital Subscription Snapshot 


Interacting and engagement

To achieve success in this process, the publisher needs to build segments and target readers with these (content) segments as individually as possible. All of this needs to happen in real time. “It’s not about building a paywall and asking for payment. It’s about interacting and engagement. A clear understanding of the reader’s need. Often it is preferable to start with a soft version of a paywall, like using a registration wall and not a direct paywall.”

A registration wall, said Walterscheid, is ideal for this period where people spend more time online because of Covid-19. “Asking for payment to read about Covid-19 might not be the right step, but asking readers to register could be a first step into a content payment strategy.”


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Target free users

Webinar participant Tobias Henning of BildPlus and WeltPlus at Axel Springer agreed. According to him it is ultimately a challenge to bring the right content to the person who is willing to pay for it. “You do not get someone to pay for content if they do not love and use your brand already. The most important user group you target in the beginning is your free users. So, instead of focussing on social media, Google or digital advertising, use your own site to market your subscription (offering).”

The ideal conversion journey is for someone who is already heavily engaged with a brand’s content to find a reason to convert to a paid content model. “It is up to us to show the user the right offer and convince him into a subscription. Once that person is in a trial subscription, it is again up to us to explain the value proposition, to explain the channels he can use, trigger engagement and show again and again the advantages of that subscription.” 

Foremost it boils down to placing the right content in front of each individual user, explained Henning. “Different subscribers convert through different content. That is of course a data-driven issue but will ensure the subscriber stays with us.”


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