Securing high-value content: How to ensure the right content doesn’t fall into the wrong hands

As thieves try to steal expensive content and customers ignore the terms of their subscription licence by ‘sharing’ with colleagues, securing paid-for published reports and data must be a priority for market analysis firms.

As a publisher of market intelligence, imagine the following scenario. Coca-Cola*, one of your largest corporate accounts, purchases an enterprise license for your annual overview of the global soft drinks market. The report is delivered to them as a PDF, and you assume it is being used internally as per the stated licensing agreement. However, you soon learn that Pepsi* are using data in presentations and business reports that could only have come from one place: your annual overview of the global soft drinks market. But you know that Pepsi didn’t purchase a copy!

Often in this situation, content is not shared with malicious intent: many customers simply have a laissez-faire attitude to licensing and sending a report to a friend in a rival organisation is often done thoughtlessly due to the ease of sharing PDFs. In other instances, it is done deliberately to steal revenues and undercut the publisher’s hard work. Regardless of intent, both forms of distribution are financially damaging for publishers.

*(disclaimer: Coca-Cola and Pepsi have been referenced purely for illustrative purposes and this example does not reflect on the integrity of their employees!)

Production Costs

Business information’s value is unquantifiable, but the content’s price reflects the production costs for a niche market, the expertise of the author and the cost of research and data collection.

Syndicated market research reports are undoubtedly highly valuable products. Every report is produced by several teams, from the authoring analyst (or analysts) to editorial who ensure factual correctness and consistency, followed by production who work on design, layout, and quality control. Sales and marketing teams then join the fold to decide how to package and sell the content. This process involves many people, many hours of work, and significant expense to the publisher.

Securing this painstakingly produced, high-value content is at the forefront of any provider’s mind and is increasingly relevant as cyber-security concerns seep into our everyday working and personal lives. Content is extremely easy to steal or lose control of in a complex and ever-changing digital security landscape. Publishers should be aware of the common security hazards, and solutions, that regularly trouble providers of market intelligence.

Copyright Theft

At its crudest, copyright theft is stealing, re-packaging and selling, usually at cut-price, the same content publishers have spent weeks or months putting together. Copyright theft is a growing issue in the B2B publishing community, as with increasing regularity, organised networks work together to obtain high-value content, remove any references to the actual copyright owner from the report, dataset or video and market it often for a fraction of the price.

One industry figure posting in the Renewd online community, a network for subscriptions professionals and B2B publishers, identified over 80 pseudo-information firms working together to disseminate copyrighted material and shockingly found over 90 examples of their content listed on 11 individual sites. Networks of this nature will grow in number and become more sophisticated in their tactics, so publishers must be aware of this threat.

Solution: Vet all purchasers of your content – ensure that buyers input some personal information before making purchases. If, for example, an individual is trying to buy a $4,000 report and has no associated company of note this should raise alarm bells.

Mass Sharing

In a similar vein to copyright theft, mass sharing involves the downloading of licensed content and distributing without the permission of the publisher. Often unlicensed distribution of content is committed by one of your loyal (or so you thought) subscribers rather than an anonymous denizen of the internet.

There are 3 main forms of mass sharing:

  1. The internal sharer – occurs when a registered user downloads a whole report and uploads it to their corporate intranet or internal knowledge centre.
  2. The external distributor – this offence arises when a user shares content with friends outside of their organisation.
  3. The home drive saver – involves fewer people but still takes the content out of the publishers’ possession and could evolve into the other two distributors in the future.

Commenting on this type of threat, Edwin Bailey, Director of Marketing at Content Catalyst, who has over 20 years of experience in licensing content said; “Content delivered as PDFs via email is most at risk to this form of theft, and although publishers may have DRM systems in place these can be easily bypassed via password sharing or manipulation of the PDF document’s properties. Most subscribers are, of course, reliable and trustworthy. However, it only takes one user to bypass these rudimentary safeguards before your content is freely passed around another corporate account without your knowledge.”

Solution: Invest in a content delivery system capable of tracking content usage and managing access rights. Analytics and licensing allow greater control over usage and enables site administrators to keep tabs on potential rule-breakers. Having settings that prevent users from downloading whole reports offline can also be an effective preventative measure.

“Most subscribers are, of course, reliable and trustworthy. However, it only takes one user to bypass these rudimentary safeguards before your content is freely passed around another corporate account without your knowledge.”

Edwin Bailey

Director of Marketing, Content Catalyst

Corporate account sharing and fair use policy

Fair use policies have often been a sticking point between publishers and clients. Breaches of fair use frequently come in the form of password sharing amongst colleagues. Corporate licenses are granted with certain limits – a common restriction being the number of users associated with the account. Once the company reaches the pre-agreed number of users accessing the provider’s content, the client should move to the next pricing bracket and be charged a higher fee for access.

For example, a corporate team buying an account with 20 registered users when there are 100 members in their department should be flagged as a risk. If unregistered customer employees then ask the publisher’s analysts or salespeople content-related questions, this is an obvious sign of unauthorised access and may confirm the suspicion of password sharing.

Solution: Tracking IP access is a handy way of getting a sense of the number of devices accessing your site. Again, usage analytics, particularly those related to log-ins and geographical location are vital: if you can see that a certain account is logged in 24 hours a day with constant activity, it’s possible to deduce that the password is not just being shared amongst direct colleagues but across multiple time-zones – a major breach of fair usage policy.

Password breaches

In June of 2021, the largest ever password data breach was leaked – 8.4 billion passwords in total were compromised1. This problem is not sector-specific, but the sheer volume of passwords leaked every year makes this an issue publishers should be wary of.

Tom Gibbs, CIO at Content Catalyst who has been at the forefront of keeping Publish Interactive secure, explains that “the ubiquitous threat of data breaches means publishers should strive to implement security via a combination of best practices and a robust tech ecosystem.” Five security features he recommends that publishers should consider to ensure content security are (these are also all features of the Publish Interactive platform):

  1. 2-Factor authentication – reduces the chance of password sharing among colleagues and external attackers as only permitted IP addresses will receive entry codes.
  2. Password age – a setting that allows site administrators to enforce the frequency that users must reset their password.
  3. Trusted domains – restricts which email domains can access the site.
  4. ReCAPTCHA – this widget will ensure bots are unable to register to your site.
  5. SSO integration – with providers Okta and Microsoft Azure AD, facilitating better password practices and more secure log-in systems.

Solution: Invest in subscription software or a content delivery platform that has a range of features designed to counteract and reduce the threat of content breaches. It’s also important to sign-up to specialist password protectors, such as LastPass for your internal employees and if you are sharing passwords over email, ensure you use encrypted password services, such as PW Push.

A more secure future

Publishers must ensure the security of their content – the myriad of threats can be hard to keep up with, but with the right technology, secure best practice policies and the diligence of employees to monitor and track unusual activity, your painstakingly produced content can be kept safe and secure.

1https://www.itechpost.com/articles/105916/20210608/rockyou-2021-breach-exposes-8-4-billion-passwords-check-now.htm

Tags

  • Management
  • Security
  • Technology

Related Content

Build or buy? Why in-house development of B2B publishing platforms rarely meets expectations

One of the key questions for B2B publishers is whether to build proprietary content platforms in-house or work with an experienced supplier. Edwin Bailey, Director of Marketing, assesses the risks associated of in-house development versus outsourcing.

In a competitive digital marketplace, efficiency is king. The right publishing solution is about timely access to authoritative research, data, and analysis to ensure that, as a research or an analysis firm, you’ve got the winning edge.

Add the invaluable ingredient of high-quality content as well as a suite of intuitive, user-friendly tools for simple and quick interactions, and that edge grows further still.

However, the critical question is, do you develop in-house or outsource? With so many variables to consider, we explore why building a proprietary system might not offer a feasible solution for anyone looking to gain competitive advantage.

The C Factor

Perhaps the biggest factor of all is cost. A publishing platform – in-house or otherwise – is in continual development, so surely removing the burden of developing a proprietary system while trying to constantly keep pace with the rapid progression of technology is a no-brainer?

Outsourcing not only removes initial capital expenditure and externalises the costs associated with development risks, updates, and over-runs but also ensures the availability of best quality technology at a fixed price. Outsourcing also paves the way for cost certainty, accurate budgeting, and the freeing-up of capital for use on other opportunities.

Streamline

In short: focus on what you’re good at. As a research or an analysis organisation, use your resources wisely and do not sway from your core competencies. Running a large internal development team solely for your publishing platform is, let’s face it, a costly distraction from your main business.

Outsourcing your publishing platform also offers you the flexibility and agility to respond to critical opportunities.

“It doesn’t matter how good your content is – if technology compromises its ease of access, both customer experience and competitive edge will dissipate.”

Time to market

Building a bespoke in-house system to match your business’ exact requirements and customers’ expectations is a bit like the holy grail. For one, your end-users may already be familiar with high-quality publishing platforms used by other providers and the high benchmark is therefore already set. In short, you are setting yourself up for a fall, perpetually stuck in development hell with technology that is fast becoming outdated.

‘Basic’ in-house amendments could routinely take four to six months and all those coding ‘tweaks’ will become increasingly difficult to manage, allowing your competitors to eclipse you. Any system that can’t rapidly implement new features made necessary by the wider technological ecosystem will quickly become obsolete.

This level of development and creativity demands big responsibility – as is managing the constant investment needed to fund the enterprise. Does your firm have the time and energy for this?

An outsourced solution will reduce implementation time and ensure industry-leading user and publisher experiences, as well as allowing research and analysis firms to publish reports quickly and easily.

And it doesn’t matter how good your content is – if technology compromises its ease of access, both customer experience and competitive edge will dissipate. A research or analysis firm’s platform should enhance content, as well as make it easy to find, understand and export in various user-friendly ways.

Sales impact

Creating a system that can actively help publishers improve sales can take years of development. Content Catalyst has been developing its content platform, Publish Interactive, for more than 12 years to the point where new partners can see tangible sales benefits within weeks. How long would that take if they were developing their own systems? The time frames are incomparable.

Furthermore, a publisher’s entire portfolio is also made instantly available, enabling researchers to find required information quickly and easily, leading to greater and prolonged use. Content analysis can help firms quickly identify popular content with great revenue potential, pinpoint any content gaps, and target content at specific users. Upselling and cross-selling opportunities are also enhanced, including the encouragement of ad-hoc buyers to become subscribers.

Freedom to thrive

Business information providers should ask themselves: do they want to invest time, money, energy, and focus equipping themselves with technology for tomorrow, or should they leave those tasks to the experts and concentrate on making their research the best it can be?

For further information, access our guide to choosing a publishing system:

Choosing the right research publishing software

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Tags

  • Digital Transformation
  • Management
  • Sales

Analysts: The new Bowies of business?

Market analysis firms can boost profiles by championing their best hidden asset

Arguably, in terms of success, analysts are to research businesses what David Bowie is to music. This may raise a few eyebrows, but there are more parallels to be drawn than you might first think. Ziggy Stardust’s creator was heralded as a skilled visionary who influenced many through presenting a defining image that was enhanced by the intricate lines of his lyrics that were as random as they were complex. In a similar fashion (bear with me), analysts have the skill and expert insight to cut through billions of lines of data and deliver a clear vision of various business sectors. But unlike Bowie, they are the unsung heroes of their world.

And in the same way Bowie used instruments and collaborated with others to further leverage his genius to become a trailblazer, so the gurus of data knowledge must empower themselves further through boosting their business intelligence. We know that one way for a research business to reinforce the expertise of its analysts is through the use of smart publishing technology.

In the public eye

Through default rather than design, analysts tended to remain in the background. Historically, there has been reticence with market analysis firms to promote them as a key selling point. However, in this digital era openness and visibility is crucial – even for analysts. It’s not just about skillset or experience anymore; a company’s credentials now also depend on voice and personality through social media. Analysts no longer need hide their talents under a bushel – it’s time to celebrate these Trojans of number crunching and champion their public value.

In analysts we trust

Intuitive technology allows customers to discover more about individual analysts and enables quick access to the content they produce. As the old adage goes, people buy people. If a user gleans value in the work of an analyst, technology can be harnessed to empower the reader to find even more of their output.

“David Bowie, R.I.P.” by Ronald Douglas Frazier

Rock star reporting

In a recent report, the Financial Times* interviewed over 500 subscribed companies which were either responsible for, involved in, or knowledgeable about their organisation’s use of market
intelligence to support strategic decision-making. The results showed that 51% thought industry analysts were the most effective sources, the highest percentage in fact – second were media outlets at just 33%.

Liam Rogers, Associate Research Analyst at 451 Research, a global research and advisory firm explains the possible reasons behind this: “Truthfully, sometimes analysts are like rock stars – they’re this figure that knows a certain sector really well and people know that they do. They’re a trusted source of informed information. A big part of the job as an analyst is building trust and maintaining relationships and so I think the way we have to do that is changing.”

 

Most effective sources of market intelligence for strategic decision making

Source:  Financial Times, The edge of intelligence report (2020)

Unleash your assets

A smart publishing system should give analysts the means to brand themselves as the saviours of their subject matter, and, through a series of relatively small measures, we’ve given our customers the capabilities to make their analysts the pillar of their digital marketing pursuits.

For us it’s really a no-brainer – both in arriving at this truth and also for firms to implement. When a research provider marries up with the right kind of publishing technology, it can unleash not just analysts’ potential but also that of the firm’s, with the opportunity to create a lasting impact with audiences for years to come.

*Source: Financial Times: The edge of intelligence report

Find out how the Publish Interactive system can raise the profile of your analysts and built trust with your subscribers by speaking with an expert

Tags

  • Analyst Workflow
  • Editorial
  • Management

Why publishers need customer success teams to ensure great renewal rates

Speakers at a recent industry conference on b2b subscriptions highlighted the importance of customer success in engaging customers and driving higher subscription renewals

A recent study that identified the top emerging jobs using data gathered from LinkedIn found Customer Success roles to be the number one fastest growing role in 2019 and comfortably in the top ten in an identical 2020 study. Reflecting this emergence, we heard further evidence of the growing importance of customer success teams (CS for short), and the value they bring to customers and colleagues alike at the Substribe Summit, an industry conference organised to showcase the value and power of subscriptions.

Good customer success requires cultural change

Alex Farmer, VP of Customer Success at Cognite, a SaaS company supporting digital transformation in heavy-asset industries, and Kate Forgione, Co-Founder of the Customer Success Network, an online network for CS managers, led a conference session that emphasised the foundational approach required to incorporate CS teams into organisations. Rather than simply re-assigning job titles to pre-existing salespeople, CS teams must develop from structural personnel and procedural changes – starting with the company culture.

This cultural shift can only be delivered when there is a universal, company-wide buy-in and this shift must be reflected in the ways that all client-facing employees are measured and incentivised. In other words, shoe-horning in a new CS department or simply renaming existing job roles will not ensure a successful CS team.

Nick Blunden, President of fashion media company The Business of Fashion, translated this into practical terms and outlined the need for CS teams to have their ‘own reporting, KPI’s and focus’ to distinguish them from renewals and sales teams.

Success & sales teamwork

Despite the need for distinguishment between the teams, another recurring theme from the conference was the necessity for a close, but clearly defined relationship between sales and CS teams. Alix Fennoll-Wattinne, formerly the Head of Customer Success at recurring payments platform GoCardless, examined how both teams must clearly define how deals are handed over, so must know:

  • The role each contact plays within their company,
  • What to expect from each contact or persona, and;
  • What constitutes ‘success’ for the company and individuals within the company.

Farmer and Forgione went further still and emphasised that sales and CS teams must be ‘best friends’ as both teams, not just the CS team, will work together to meet their customer’s goals and ensure a long and successful working relationship.

CS teams need to have their ‘own reporting, KPI’s and focus’ to distinguish them from renewals and sales teams.

Nick Blunden

President, The Business of Fashion

Understand value to the customer and help them realise this

Speakers at the Substribe Summit also outlined the critical role CS teams play in helping customers realise the value of their organisation’s product. Nick Blunden discussed how The Business of Fashion organise webinars to demonstrate the value individual businesses gain from their content, build customised content programmes with bespoke content feeds, and run tailored workshops for customers.

All these initiatives can be spearheaded by CS teams to ensure customers are guided on a journey to maximise the value they receive from their purchase. These initiatives also lead to an improved TTV (time-to-value) rate, a term referenced by Alex Farmer during the conference to measure the time taken for customers to find success following the purchase of a product or service.

Map out desired outcomes

Helping your customers understand the value you provide must be a joint effort from both the purchaser and the seller said Richard Butterworth, Commercial Director of the market intelligence provider Chemical Watch. He explained how they produce a ‘customer value plan’ at the beginning of each relationship. This covers questions such as:

  • What are their desired outcomes?
  • What does success look like for their business?
  • What value are they receiving from our content?

This process is replicated during renewals and helps Chemical Watch track and monitor customer progress. Farmer and Forgione similarly covered this process by highlighting the importance of allowing key clients to take some ownership of the product roadmap by CS teams listening and onboarding their suggestions and ideas.

Kellie McMillan, Client Relationship Manager at Content Catalyst, agreed with these sentiments. “We organise regular catch-ups with all our clients not only to keep them up-to-date but to listen carefully how they use our software,” she said.

A signed customer contract and an arbitrary figure next to a salesperson’s name on an office whiteboard is not the end of the customer engagement process. The success of customers, and implicitly the publisher, depends on a reciprocal and continual partnership between publisher and customer.

The future of b2b subscriptions conference organised by Substribe was held over 5 days at the end of September and beginning of October 2020

How publishers can efficiently run multiple brands from a single platform

A publisher running several digital brands on a number of different systems risks workflow inefficiencies and higher production costs

Simplify client management

Running multiple digital publishing brands through a single content and client management platform simplifies and speeds up administrative tasks, freeing up time and valuable resources.

The pain points associated with running multiple clients across disparate systems is removed as the same managerial tools are applied to all clients. Publishers are empowered to manage each client equally well and run operations with greater efficiency and oversight.

Offer service consistency

A platform delivering the same content formats and workflow tools across multiple digital brands enables the publisher to offer a common standard to all its customers. Useful functionality, familiar products, valuable tools and high service levels across all brands helps bring service consistency to a publisher’s portfolio.

“Making it easier for clients to understand our entire Power & Renewables content portfolio – and to find and access content for themselves – contributed to growing ‘per user’ engagement levels”.

Matt DaPrato

Product Suite Director, Wood Mackenzie

Create sales opportunities

Using a single platform to power multiple publishing brands enables a publisher to make new content available to subscribers. Through search results and appropriate marketing, a client of Brand A can be made aware of relevant content available via Brand B. Enabling subscribers to access relevant content outside their licence can help generate additional revenues, improve subscriber satisfaction and helps build engagement across a portfolio.

For example, energy market analysts Wood Mackenzie used Publish Interactive to pull together a number of research offerings. Matthew DaPrato, a Product Suite Director at Wood Mackenzie points out: “Making it easier for clients to understand our entire Power & Renewables content portfolio – and to find and access content for themselves – contributed to growing ‘per user’ engagement levels”.

See how the Publish Interactive platform can help your publishing company run multiple brands from a single platform, book a product tour to be guided by an expert.

Read the customer story: How WoodMac used Publish Interactive to merge three digital experiences into a single platform

How business information publishers should plan for business post-Coronavirus

We explore six areas that management should focus on to ensure continuity and growth during the Covid era

Government responses to the Coronavirus pandemic are having a terrible impact on economic activity. Fortunately, unlike travel or hospitality, the B2B publishing sector is not in the immediate front line of the fallouts from government lockdowns. That said, as the economy rapidly weakens and confidence falls, there will be a longer-term impact on the sector and revenues will be bitten into.

Apart from live events, which are currently either cancelled or postponed to a future ‘normal’, not all is doom and gloom for publishers of high-value B2B information and data products. Aggregated visitor data to our publisher customers content platforms is showing no significant change in numbers since the crisis began.  Perhaps we can conclude from this data that our publishers’ content and data (which covers many industries) is still valuable and needed by their corporate customers.

Further encouraging signals came from a recent survey by B2B media subscription consultancy Substribe, which indicated that over 80% of B2B publishers have seen an increase in customer engagement since mid-March. However, despite this robust percentage, only 40% are confident about growth from their subscriptions. Perhaps the survey question was incorrectly phrased – who apart from grocery stores and video conference tech providers are expecting growth?

So, what should B2B publishers and business information providers be doing to ensure they survive this economic crisis and come out the other side fitter and ready to take advantage of opportunities? I suggest six actions that all publishers should be considering right now.

1.  Intensify focus on retaining your customers.

The old adage for choosing property (and name of a popular English television house hunting programme), location, location, location could be matched in the publishing world by retention, retention, retention. The winners will be companies that retain their customers through this crisis.  Until now, churn is a way of life for subscription businesses. Acquiring new customers is going to be harder and unlikely to replace lost revenue. Think about it this way – zero churn is great for the bottom line because you are not having to replace lost revenue to stand still.

Holding onto a customer who is paying half of what they were pre-crisis is better than loosing them completely. So be nice, be smart and be proactive.

2.  Understand the value of your content

As a first-year marketing student will tell you, value is not the same as price. In the intangible world of content and data the value of product is often very much in the eye of the beholder. Your data might be robust and your analysts’ opinion well regarded but understanding why your customers buy your product and what tasks they use it for is not easy. Start off by asking straight up why your customer values the content. Additionally, use analytics to see which content is being used. Be careful with popular content versus valuable content. Some subjects are popular (like articles on Tesla’s Elon Musk’s latest indiscretions!) but not necessarily useful in your customers’ tasks. In this crisis companies are looking for support to help with forecasting, understanding how competitors are responding and looking for competitive advantage to survive. It is important to convey that you are the trusted guide through this crisis in your messaging.

The old adage for choosing property (and name of a popular English television house hunting programme), location, location, location could be matched in the publishing world by retention, retention, retention. The winners will be companies that retain their customers through this crisis.

3.  Invest in delivery platforms

The sudden move to homeworking has made access to paid content and data through the user’s browser an imperative. Companies still relying on terminals or IP-specific access will have to change. We live in an access-anywhere at anytime world and self-service content delivery platforms are a must.

In many cases your customers are performing tasks with your content and data. Will the “Zoom factor” change the way B2B information is packaged?  Ask how you can help with their tasks and workflow  and where they take place. This may open internal conversations about how the actual delivery of content could be improved.

4.   Diversify your portfolio

Although virtually no sector is going to be left unscathed by the economic fallout from Coronavirus containment measures, some sectors are more badly affected than others.  , while others such as transport or construction could suffer as companies in those sectors lose confidence and shed staff. Some information formats are suffering such as live events which are decimated, and advertising-driven publications are seeing sharp downturns. But, other forms such as news, market forecasts (however sketchy!) and peer advice are seeing upticks in engagement and readership.

This begs the following questions for a publishing company’s management. Should they:

  • Specialise heavily in one sector or publish across industry verticals?
  • Offer a range of formats with different type of revenue streams? and,
  • Look to repackage their content for a different audience?

However, whatever the sector or format, I believe the companies that will prosper are those that have a range of offers, solid subscription revenues and, above all, are trusted and valued by their customers.

5.  Accelerate product innovation

Anecdotally the crisis is accelerating the pace of innovation and change in companies. Decision making is quicker and projects that were scheduled to take months are now being completed in weeks. Whether this ‘war footing’ can continue indefinitely remains to be seen, but creativity will become increasingly essential in finding ways to adapt. Companies with high exposure in the live events sector or from advertising revenue will want to quickly rethink the future of their offer. Some ideas I have heard floated could include:

  • Develop a freemium-type model to drive readership in the hope that a profitable percentage can be converted into customers when the economy recovers. For example, a regular, (sector specific) update summarising Coronavirus related news
  • Repurpose old IP (after all its creation is a sunk cost) into a new product. This idea has relevance for conference companies who might have stacks of old presentations.
  • There is a real sense that people are ‘lonely’ in business and want to be connected to those having similar experiences. Can this desire for social connectivity and community within the business world be an opportunity?
  • Look how to double-down on subscription revenues. Can you communicate more value or transition to a membership model with a more personalised offer?
  • Repackage content and sell at a different price bracket of to a different audience.

6.  Prepare for a downturn and change in working patterns

Preparing for an economic downturn is gloomy but also pragmatic. Many sectors are and will experience a slump as the economy goes into recession. Instead of hoping that things will go back to normal (bit vague – what is normal?) all companies must prepare themselves for leaner times. Publishers will be exposed to the vagaries of their customers’ spend and will need to regularly reforecast, find efficiencies and reduce overheads. Additionally, in the short-to-medium term working patterns for staff will change with more homeworking and less face-to-face contact, which will change daily operations. On this point the future is unknown, but the successful companies will be those that develop new approaches rather than reacting with short-term solutions.

Looking to the future

In summary, I think the publishers and B2B info companies that will come through this crisis in good shape are those that work hard to:

  • Build personal relationships with their key customers and empathises with their needs,
  • Communicate the value of their product and reinforce why the content and data is trustworthy,
  • Deliver products that help the users complete a task (particularly important as so many are working remotely),
  • Develop a diversified product portfolio, by sector, usage and audience, and,
  • Think creatively about how to turn a crisis into an opportunity.

The cliched saying that we are living in unprecedented times is of course a truism. We are living in challenging times and are having to rapidly change the way we work. Publishers which will be most successful are those that adapt to this huge challenge facing humanity – a new challenge for everyone involved.

Understanding what revenue risks subscription technology should mitigate

Publishers of high-value market intelligence need to ensure they have the technology building blocks in place to be deliver profitable subscription revenue.

Picture the scene: you run a research firm that emails PDFs to clients, even though this is fraught with opportunities for your report content to be used outside the agreed licence and doesn’t enable you to gather any feedback beyond registering to whom the report was originally sent.

You know your firm needs to move towards a subscription model where a technical solution is put in place to deliver content to clients – but even that is not without peril.

So, when weighing up introduction of a subscription technology, what possible future issues should it be able to mitigate?

Retained access

By far the biggest headache for publishers using a less advanced subscription system is around individuals leaving one job, but retaining access to a publisher’s content. This can endanger IP and damages revenues.

How does a publisher lessen the impact of this kind of behaviour?

Email and ID security

Smart subscription software can limit the impact of unlawful access by only accepting log-ins from company email addresses and insisting on a two-factor identification.

When an individual leaves one role, it’s highly likely they’ll be shut out of their old email account; therefore, when the time comes for them to update their log-in details, they won’t be able to access the automated email asking that prompts this change, and their old log-in will become obsolete.

What’s more, two-stage verification of this kind discourages subscribers from sharing log-ins widely with friends and colleagues, as the need to regularly re-verify becomes burdensome.

Mass downloading

The other nightmare scenario is that a subscriber downloads your entire portfolio and then fails to renew their subscription.

There are several ways a smart publishing system can help to alleviate this problem. The first is around access rights; if a subscription simply buys a client unrestricted access to a publisher’s entire portfolio (so-called ‘all-you-can-eat subscriptions’) there is little in the way to discourage this kind of behaviour.

A smart system isn’t going to provide all-you-can-eat access to more than a handful of ‘power’ subscribers. It’s therefore unlikely that the opportunity will exist for a single person to download every piece of content. It’s also a significant deterrent that any information taken in a mass download would have repeated and regular use of the individual account user’s personal details across every piece of content.

An even more significant deterrent to mass downloading is management of the content. Any individual with access to an entire portfolio would also have access to the inbuilt workflow tools needed to search, edit, adapt, and make sense of all that information. A mass downloaded would also mean abandoning this suite of tools. Making sense of such a huge volume of content without these tools would be thankless, unrewarding, and an almost impossibly time-consuming task.

Customer behaviour, renewals, and engagement

Of course, using a smart publishing system can help mitigate a lot of the difficulty around mass downloads as the content usage of individual account holders is monitored in real time. Unusual behaviour can trigger alerts enabling the publisher to intervene.

Related difficulties around managing grace periods, blocking individual access, and dealing with expired subscriptions can also be dealt with through a system that feeds back rich account information to the publisher.

With a system that flags an individual’s poor or limited use of content, non-engagement, and upcoming renewals, the risk of non-renewal can be managed out of the client base through good quality customer service.

Individuals who aren’t making the most of their subscription can be given help by the publisher to maximise its value; this could be as simple as providing tutorials around use of workflow tools, or offers of content that’s more appropriate to their needs.

Whatever the issue for the customer, good quality behavioural information and a system of alerts can help the publisher enact a solution before the situation turns critical and a valuable source of revenue is lost.

Tags

  • Management
  • Subscription Renewals
  • Technology

7 tips: How behavioural data can help maintain a low churn rate

Having customers access your Market Intelligence content via a subscription is a great way for your firm to maintain a predictable income, but running this model means contract renewal time is an even more vital piece of the business jigsaw.

If you can’t make a good case for renewal, then a significant chunk of next year’s income can disappear in a flash.

The key to keeping churn rate low is to provide high-level service to customers, but getting them to actually sign for another year means providing solid evidence of an effective and useful service.

The representative tasked with negotiating a renewal on your customer’s behalf is unlikely to be a daily user of the service. If they don’t have first-hand knowledge of how great you are, you’ll need to convince them of it. Supplying rich information showing how much value their colleagues extract from the service account will go a long way to ensuring a renewal and/or an upgrade.

In this article, we’re going to look at seven ways that key bits of behavioural data can help you maintain and develop your subscriptions at renewal time.

1. Getting the content mix right

If your publishing technology is good, it should provide worthwhile data on the type of content customers are accessing. Getting right the package of topics available to account holders is the route to a happy customer.

So, what patterns can you discern from behavioural data extracted from your publishing technology? Can you use this information to tailor a better service to your customers?

Can you establish what topics and categories are accessed most? Are any subjects underused or ignored? If so, what about tweaking the subscription licence to include topics related to more popular subjects and ending access to those that are little-used or less well-reviewed?

Offering more relevant content will lead to greater engagement and enable your client to maximise the value of their subscription.

2. Number of visits/Time spent in platform

If you can use data to show how reliant account users are on your content and publishing system, this will go a long way toward proving your worth to the customer. Evidence of lots of visits, and long spells interacting with the publishing platform demonstrate how good the experience is for all those who use it.

If you can also demonstrate a growing frequency of visits and increasingly longer sessions over the course of the subscription, that’s powerful evidence to show that users found both the content and that the platform increasingly compelling and vital as they grew familiar with its use.

We’re not saying you should encourage users to stay on your site just for the sake of it, but as the more value they find the more productive they become through use, the more their session times and frequency of visits are likely to increase.

3. Type of activity

Of course, your customers aren’t likely just to be accessing information; they’ll be sharing it with colleagues, leaving comments, downloading key sections, exporting to PowerPoint, Word, and Excel, as well as cutting bespoke reports as they interlace your information with their own proprietary insights.

Quantifying this level of activity can provide compelling evidence that a) your content is worth re-using and b) that your publishing system can facilitate all these essential tasks and make your customers more efficient and productive as a result.

4. What type of content are they using?

In addition to understanding the type of activity in which the users are engaged, knowing what type of content they’re using can be equally useful.

If half are permanently downloading text-based analysis and the other half only care for data tables, the sales representative should be able to configure the new subscription package to empower these groups with access to appropriate topics and content types.

If you can also demonstrate a growing frequency of visits and increasingly longer sessions over the course of the subscription, that’s powerful evidence to show that users found both the content and that the platform increasingly compelling and vital as they grew familiar with its use.”

Edwin Bailey

Director of Marketing

5. Moving licences around

Presumably, the subscriptions you sell will cover a certain number of licences; but how do you know the customer is getting value from all of them? When it comes to renewal time, you should have sufficient behavioural information to tell your client about the individuals that are using the platform regularly (and those that aren’t), and/or the job titles that get the most value from their access.

You can help your customer be more efficient by empowering them to move allotted subscriptions to individuals who will be able to make the most of the access. In fact, if this happens ahead of renewal time you’ll be able to demonstrate how much more usage is being extracted as a result.

6. Dealing with non-engagement

It isn’t always about using data reactively to justify a renewal; customer usage data (or a lack of it) can be just as usefully applied to ensure each user benefits from their access to your information.

If, several months into a new contract, your data shows several users are engaging infrequently, or using little content, or even not logging in at all, you can be proactive.

These individuals can be contacted to find out what is limiting their involvement. Perhaps they need different content or some training to help them access information?

By monitoring users who are not responding to content – and then getting in touch to see what’s wrong – you could help improve the look of your stats and make life that little bit easier when the time comes to discuss the renewal of the service agreement.

7. Evidence of time saved

If the combination of content you provide means your customers don’t have to wade through reams of reports to get the information they need, that represents a time-saving. Equally, each time a user takes a piece of content and exports it – at the click of a button –  to Excel, PPT, or Word for use elsewhere instead of laboriously copying it all out manually, that’s another huge time-saving.

Multiply that time saving by the number of exports your users perform, and you have a really compelling and tangible number to show your customers to help them understand how much time they are saving by subscribing.

Recap: 7 behavioural data points to understand

  1. Getting the content mix right
  2. Number of visits/Time spent in platform
  3. Type of activity
  4. What type of content are subscribers using?
  5. Moving licences around
  6. Dealing with non-engagement
  7. Evidence of time saved

Business intelligence publishers risk undermining their value if they don’t empower corporate users

Providers of market intelligence must offer in-house,  corporate competitive intelligence  and research teams an easy way to access, repurpose and share knowledge.

Rapidly evolving markets and the burgeoning digital economy mean the business intelligence world is undergoing fundamental transformation – one effect of this change is an existential pressure being applied on the in-house research teams producing competitive and market intelligence.

These teams face challenges on two fronts: to manage reports and data in way that maximises the value of this material in a fast-paced digital environment and to prove their own worth to those who might question their usefulness. For a function that grew out of the corporate library, that is usually regarded as a cost centre, and has often seen a reduction in funding and headcount, that’s a tough ask.

So, how do they face down these challenges and become an essential element of a forward-looking organisation? The answer lies in improving their technology – and this is where publishers of market analysis can help (and at the same time help themselves).

Bountiful research, not easily found

Corporates and large consulting firms spend millions of dollars buying-in research, but many of these organisations fail to make the most of their investment because of the way that information is stored and accessed.

Often, reports are stored as PDFs and data is kept in spreadsheets in a shared drive. Although everyone can access this information, the reality is they don’t. The time and difficulty involved in sifting through documents to locate vital material will simply prove prohibitive. The pain associated with extracting and reusing valuable insights and datasets is equally limiting on usage.

To unlock the potential of this information, it needs to be accessible, fully searchable, easy to understand, and then simple to repurpose.

Avoid the bottleneck

Previously, business intelligence was underused because – as described above – even simple searches could take hours.

Thankfully, those days can be a thing of the past. Good quality research tech, more specifically, good quality content delivery software, now means users can find and reuse information in minutes.

Using a high-spec content platform could help in-house research teams prepare and share reports more easily and, consequently, become strong advocates for those publishers who can provide their research through a system of this kind.

With a high-spec content platform, end users are empowered with rich information. Ease of accessibility and use also means end users will use the technology repeatedly and more widely – all of which helps alleviate another live issue that in-house research teams deal with… the bottleneck.

When information is stored on a shared drive that, as we have previously described, is hard-to-navigate, it creates a knock-on problem. To get at this information, the default approach is to go through the in-house research team and ask them to search out that information and send it over directly.

Now, these teams are often small, and overworked, so when a request for information comes in from another part of the business, provision of this service takes time. This is frustrating for the person who made the request and does little to encourage them to seek further information.

Using a high-spec content platform could help in-house research teams prepare and share reports more easily and, consequently, become strong advocates for those publishers who can provide their research through a system of this kind.

Self-service

If reports and data are buried in unsearchable shared drives, and those seeking information in a business are forced to harass an overworked in-house research team – and then wait for their information, this is a dangerous situation for the authors of the research.

If your clients can’t see the true value of what you produce, they will start to question why they are paying for it, particularly given the amount of free, albeit lesser quality, information available via a Google search. If, however, you empower your clients with self-service technology, where the search experience is crafted to suit their particular needs, then the value the pay for access to your portfolio can easily be maximised.

In-house research teams should be available to produce reports, collate an intimate understanding of the information they have at hand, and act as gatekeepers to all business intelligence, guiding colleagues with their expert knowledge when departments within their organisation need specialist help.

They can only do this if they are freed of the burden of supplying information. For that to happen, their colleagues must be able to search, access, and use research information for themselves.

They need a high-quality content platform that allows them to perform all these tasks in minutes, not days – and they need this platform to be an enabling tool, not something that adds another layer of difficultly or ‘process’ to the busy workday.

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  • Analyst Workflow
  • Management
  • Technology

How digital publishing technology helps research and analysis firms stay relevant

A smart content platform will not only help you understand content use and customer behavior, it will also allow you to make quick edits and updates without necessitating wholesale changes

Picture the scenario: you’ve just spent six months pulling together all the information for your latest business intelligence report then, when it’s finished, the printed copies sit gathering dust and the PDF version gets emailed to those who stumble across it – but that’s it, no further info on who reads it, or what they think.

A typical customer of a business information publisher has an expectation that reports, data, and other information will be made available digitally – but as our scenario suggests, it can be an area in which some firms struggle.

Research and analysis firms are not software companies, and for every publisher that gets their digital offering right, there are many that, for one reason or another, are missing opportunities to enhance their user experience and widen their customer base.

Word to PDF, then what?

Many research and analysis businesses still author reports in Word, convert into PDFs, and distribute whole documents either as a download or over email.

This linear process is simple and low-cost, but it has a number of fundamental limitations:

  • How do you know who reads the report? If anyone? Or how many people it eventually goes to?
  • Does the customer really want to read the whole report? Or just certain sections?
  • How do you know which sections are of interest and use? And which are not?
  • Without this information, how do you market accurately in the future?
  • Without this information, how do you know where to focus your research in future?
  • Even with this info, how do you edit reports, in a cost and time-effective way, to keep them relevant?
  • If your business is one-off sales to a single customer, how do you retain them beyond that sale?

Adopting publishing technology

At Publish Interactive, we’ve been helping research and analysis firms make sense of digital publishing for the last 12 years. Over that time, it has become apparent that all the issues they face boil down to two major pain points: how to compile content in compelling ways and how to keep content relevant.

The good news is that technology can easily help a business overcome these pain points.

Put customers in control

Your customer might not want a whole report. They might not even want you to compile the information for them. And what if they need to glean information from several sources and then compile this into a report of their own?

Using a linear approach, sending them a whole document as a PDF, will make their task time-consuming, costly, and energy-sapping.

And they won’t thank you for that.

But if you were to provide them access to a website where they could search every report you’ve ever produced, clip relevant sections from multiple sources, then export these into their own report in a matter of minutes, not only will you be saving them time and effort, you’ll be helping them to work smarter and improve the quality of their own output with timely and relevant information.

And they’ll love you for that!

Smarter authoring

Allowing users to slice and dice your content in a manner that suits them is a great way to stay relevant and useful for your customers. But not only that; providing this kind of access helps free up the end-users’ time to do other tasks and engage more deeply with content; it can also help tell you exactly what they’re interested in as every search and piece of content accessed is logged.

By monitoring customer behaviour and content usage, firms can use this information to serve customers better:

  • How about feeding this info into the decision-making on what topics to focus on and which to ignore?
  • What about using it to inform the decision-making on when to update reports with new information?
  • What about serving up tailored content suggestions to users based on their previous choices?

A smart content platform will not only help you understand content use and customer behaviour, it will also allow you to make quick edits and updates without necessitating wholesale changes; therefore, freeing up your time for other tasks and helping to breathe new life into older content.

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  • Business
  • Management
  • Technology