I've just interviewed Jason Kint, VP & General Manager Online at SportingNews. He wasn't able to give me enough data for a full fledged Case Study, but he did share these interesting details:
- Over the past three years, SportingNews online revenues have shifted dramatically from 90% ad sales, to 50% ad sales and 50% "non-ad sources" the majority of which are subscription sales. Syndication and licensing are a small under 10% slice, and bookstore sales of digital and printed docs are another small slice.
- They've done lots of price testing on their eDocs (PDFs) and subscription offers, including emailing surveys to registered members and testing prices on live offers. Results have shown they can charge a variety of prices for content. Some products are $5 and others as high as $39. Publishers who just pick a price that sounds good and use it uniformly across the board may be losing out.
- Bundled offers are working well. For example, SportingNews offers three different products for NFL fans, including a pre-season countdown, a "draft central" kit and "pro football matchups" which you can buy separately or bundled together for a discount.
On the other hand, SportingNews is not offering a mega-bundle of everything they sell, mainly because Jason says the price would be too high to be sexy to prospects (at a certain point it's easier to sell several small things than one big one), and because baseball and football fans don't overlap all that much.
- While news itself is lower value online, Jason says because SpsortingNews' editors get it online so quickly, it's worth the subscription fee to people. The value in that marketplace is the speed.
- Open and response rates to team-specific newsletters blow more generic newsletters out of the water. It can be worth the extra investment to create separate newsletters for each marketplace slice.
- Although SportingNews has enormous offline presence (4.5 million print magazine readers, and 13 million radio show listeners), the Web site with "close to 3 million registered users" is definitely reaching some different people. There's less overlap than you might think. Jason says, "A very, very high percent of Web users we're introducing to the magazine and providing a lot of benefit." The site is a good print sub feeder.
- Just like every publisher I've talked to, Jason is ready, willing and able to sell ads by the daypart, but no one has bought any yet. He can't understand why not, "There's no question if you're a beer or pizza company, you should advertise just before the game starts." I agree, but the only mention of daypart sales I've ever been able to find online is in search marketing PPCs. (If you know of another example, email me!)
- Also following a distinct trend I've noticed, Jason firmly limits the site's email list rentals to sponsors. He doesn't want to wear out his brand's welcome in the in-box, and only allows about two rentals per month. He says open rates are distinctly better for names that have been on the site and/or registered recently. This might seem like a "duh" but in my experience most email renters don't think to ask about recency segmentation when they buy.
- I think of SportingNews as "Mikey" in that old Life Cereal TV ad (you know the one, "Let Mikey try it. Mikey will eat anything") because it seems like whenever I hear about a neat new online publishing format, SportingNews is inevitably mentioned in the press release as one of the beta testers.
I asked how the tests, especially their ActiveBuddy IM test and their Serence NewsKlip, and of course their wireless news distribution.
While Jason was positive about usership for all of these, recipients love them, he said of all three, "How we execute on that to make money is the part we haven't done yet."
No matter how cool tech is, you gotta have a biz model to make it work.