Germany's leading print and digital news brand, Bild, is increasing its number of revenue streams to shore up its future - to the extent that it is eyeing up the TV news market.
A central theme across the recent FIPP D2C Summit was revenue diversification. The message was clear: digital publishers cannot be reliant on one or two sources income that can easily disappear such as advertising revenue. At the same time, it is crucial to pick the best business opportunities to capitalise on.
"If there really is something that might be disruptive [in the industry], let's do it ourselves and not wait for our [competitors] to do it first," said Carolin Hulshoff Pol, managing director of Bild Group, speaking at the event.
It means that five or six different revenue streams are needed in the years ahead to account for income which could go kaput. The prime example is the (now delayed) scrapping of Google's first-party cookies (dubbed the "cookiepocalypse") which has news publishers sweating over how this will impact advertising revenue. So, alternatives need to be considered.
Take The Bild Group, owned by Axel Springer, for example. In addition to its print daily Bild, and its Sunday paper, Bild am Sonnag, it also has a strong digital subscription business on bild.de, an e-commerce business Bild Shop, a sports betting platform BildBet, and there are also content licensing and syndication deals in the mix.
The Bild Group makes 1.2 million print sales every day, 80 per cent of which are in direct sales. The website draws 5.5 million daily visitors, 70 per cent of which is direct traffic - not via search or social media. The two subscription tiers Bild Plus and Bild Plus Premium have a combined 540k subscriber base.
But it is not resting on those laurels. Bild Group is also planning to launch a daily live TV news channel to be broadcast on German freeview TV, expected to roll out before the country's federal election on 26 September this year.
The reason for the expansion is that it knows its audience likes video: in 2020, eight of the top 10 best-converting content was video-related, such as documentaries and livestreams, which are both Plus Premium perks.
Newsletters were identified as a "clever subscriber exclusive" and something Bild has not yet implemented but might do in the near future. Despite being free to access, newsletters are an effective part of its on-boarding strategy to prevent new subscribers from cancelling.
This is the advantage of having a legacy brand which has been going since the 1950s. The lesson is that when you have a strong reputation, identify what audiences are coming to you for and act on those insights.
"Focus on the strengths of the brand you have. What is the exclusive you have?" asked Hulshoff Pol. "Try, fail and change - and ask the audience what they want."
It is also important that, as new revenue streams are turned on, others are not turned off. The introduction of the subscription model in 2013 did not mean that adverts stopped. Bild subscribers still see adverts even after paying for full access the site, so the two can co-exist and not contradict.
Avoid over-indulging with offers too. It is particularly tempting with new subscriptions in order to try to crank up the numbers. However, be firm on price points unless you want audiences to only pay when you are running a discount.
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