When should a brand charge for its content?

When should a brand charge for its content?

December 2, 2016


December 2, 2016


When should a brand charge for its content?


Tony Hallett
Managing director

Tony set up Collective Content in 2011 so brands can more easily become publishers and tell stories. This built on 15 years in media, from reporter to publishing director at Silicon Media Group, CNET Networks and CBS Interactive.

Previously we’ve looked at what premium content marketing means. It’s content marketing so good that a reader/viewer chooses to pay for it. But the question we come to next in our brand publishing series is even tougher: When does premium content marketing make sense for your business?

In that earlier post, we perhaps made the mistake of talking about this approach as a ‘profit centre’. That’s possibly a mistake because things you charge for don’t always result in a profit.

And therein lies a clue to the answer. Because premium content marketing can be as much about the wider effect it has than whether it really makes you money directly.

This isn’t unique to content. Though in the world of content there have long been publications that carry a newsstand price but make most of their money through other means – advertising, ecommerce, events and so on.

And in other fields you can see similar patterns. Budget airlines have got to the point where some might soon offer ‘free’ flights because the real money is to be made from what passengers buy at airports, in the air, or from related hotel, hire car and other businesses.

So it might be that premium content just feels right for your business. When would that be?

The types of business that are billion-dollar internet ventures aren’t going to get much richer by putting a price tag on a magazine. So why would they?

Take Airbnb. Two years ago its magazine Pineapple debuted with a $12/£9 price. There was some toing and froing about where it would go from there but now it has partnered with lifestyle publisher Hearst – funny, that – to create content from its many hosts around the world.

Its high-end publishing journey is about positioning the wider company as more than a peer-to-peer room rental service.

Meanwhile, others see a clear tie up between commerce and content. In that last post of ours, we mentioned what Net-a-Porter has done so well with Porter magazine – and it’s not just comfortably competing head-on with other glossy fashion mags. Retailer ASOS has done something similar, reporting an audience of almost half a million.

For these retailers, this is relatively new. But in the sector, Benetton’s brand mag goes back to the early 1990s.

And the real big boy is arguably the most famous name in brand content: Red Bull’s The Red Bulletin has circulation figures of over two million. It’s cover price isn’t the highest. But it’s more of a commitment than buying a can of the drink. And it fits perfectly into the wider Red Bull content marketing strategy.

Premium content marketing like this isn’t for those just starting out with content marketing. And while some see dollar signs in their eyes at the prospect of charging, there is rarely a direct profit to be made. But major brands will increasingly experiment in this area.

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