IMC 2009: Opportunities for alternative revenue streams are aplenty

By Sangeeta Tanwar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | November 10, 2009
Alternative revenue streams can be tapped only if publishers succeed in giving their brands new avatars which are useful to both readers and advertisers

The Indian Magazine Congress (IMC) 2009, held in Delhi by the Association of Indian Magazines (AIM), was witness to a session that dwelt on alternative revenue streams for magazine publishers.

The panellists for the session comprised Maheshwer Peri, president and publisher, Outlook Group; Shyam Malhotra, executive director and editor-in-chief, CyberMedia; and Tarun Rai, chief executive officer, Worldwide Media (WWM). The session was moderated by Anurag Batra, chairperson and editor-in-chief,

& #BANNER1 & #The moderator began by seeking publishers' thoughts on availability of alternative revenue streams in addition to advertising revenue from print. Rai opened the discussion by declaring that today, there are more opportunities available to publishers for alternative revenue streams in comparison to a decade ago. The real challenge, however, lies in going across platforms and still retaining the brand value, tonality and essence of the brand.

Recently, Filmfare and Femina travelled Southwards with their first ever movie awards, proving once again that both the magazine and the awards are equally powerful brands. For WWM, 25 per cent of its revenue comes from events and associated activities, thus reducing the pressure on regular advertising revenue.

Malhotra of CyberMedia pitched in by saying that publishers at large are aware about what can be done and what needs to be done to harness the full potential offered by alternative revenue streams. What one needs to figure out successfully, though, is to debate the 'how' part off. He shared that for his company, about 40 per cent of its revenue comes from non-advertising sources in the form of events, including online events.

He added, "CyberMedia distributes majority of its titles as subscription copies and most of them are given away for free. Since late 1990s, its titles have been selling for
Rs 100. So, there are reasons to believe that the reader is ready to pay for premium content, depending on how the brand projects itself as a utility and the way it wishes to position itself."

For the Outlook Group, its book business currently accounts for 10 per cent of its revenue. The group is hopeful that in another two-three years, the business will contribute nearly 14-15 per cent towards the group's revenue. Recalling the group's foray into the books business, Peri remarked, "Outlook Traveller and Outlook Money have a strong connect with readers and we are toying with the idea of coming out with special editions on, say, how to crack a loan or pay-up taxes. We stepped into the books business when the Internet was failing and the times were such that we had to redeem ourselves."

Peri suggested that while looking for alternative revenue streams, one has to first recognise one's brand potential and then identify one or two key properties and work towards building loyalty towards it. Spreading oneself too thin will result in heartburn.

Rai suggested that while extending the content to other platforms, publishers should take care that they make maximum use of technology in making the appropriate content available to the audience by using different applications. The idea is to avoid the pitfall of simply copying the content from one platform and dumping it on the other.

Panellists were of the view that if a publisher was traversing various platforms with quality content, existing advertisers will be more than willing to play along and new clients will come on board knowing that the brand was doing a good job in a new environment.

Speakers also emphasised that in case one is not competent in certain fields, one must partner with a player who possesses the required expertise and can help one drive maximum brand benefits from the brand extension. For example, WWM has tied up with Random House for its soon to be launched coffee table books.

Malhotra concluded the session by reinforcing that a real disruption in taking content across platforms could arise in terms of inability of teams to transform. "The real hassle in successfully taking content across platforms could come in the form of inability of the workforce to master new skill sets and their reluctance in accepting new formats," he signed off.

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