B&T was in attendance on Wednesday when Jonathan Wright, global managing director of Dow Jones, held a media roundtable event to explain how the publisher of the Wall Street Journal is growing through a more digitally-centric business model, and what Aussie publishers need to better.
Wright was upbeat about membership (subscriptions) for Dow Jones, with 2.8 million members across all of its products.
It is now the publisher’s largest revenue stream, according to Wright, moving beyond the transactional relationship to something which is more immersive with many touch points.
He said that building a sustainable revenue stream is not about one group of cohorts, but a larger and wider audience – from the c-suite executives to a growing pool of up-and-coming Millennials.
“A shift in strategy for Australia and internationally is the importance of partnerships to safeguard the media industry’s future,” Wright said.
“The opportunity to penetrate other markets being key to driving increasing membership numbers. For example, the Wall Street Journal partnership with The Australian has led to an activation rate of 20 per cent for WSJ.”
Wright also talked about the strategy for protecting quality journalism and monetising content.
His advice to publishers: “don’t be afraid, value your content”.
“People will pay for a niche quality content. You have created it, fact checked it, and you are the bastion of that content. Don’t let people take it off you, commoditise it or take it for free.”
Wright’s thinking about the Dow Jones’ events business has changed.
“Live journalism to invite-only events such as The CEO Council is an important footprint for the business,” he said.
“Whilst it used to be the bellwether of advertising and the first thing that drops off in a downturn, nothing replaces the in-person presence and the opportunity to spread your message and access to a wider influential audience.”
A mini-boom in machine learning and data analytics is the new frontier for publishers, although Wright noted that it’s difficult to quantify at this stage.
He said that Dow Jones DNA allows companies’ chief data scientists to plug into Dow’s APIs and having raw data pumped into their own platform. Dedicated unit and engineers then determine how customers want to consume data whether is through augmented reality or machine learning.
Wright noted that the fundamental need for companies and governments to tell their story is still the same.
“It is important to the fabric of society that you can go to a trusted news source,” he said.
“Change is in the air for the digital ecosystem. The rise of fake news with Google and Facebook are appearing to be open to speaking to publishers about the need build sustainable business model and monetising their content.”
Wright said print advertising continues to be challenging, but there will always be the print product for the WSJ, despite the publication having shut down its Asia and Europe editions after 40 years and replacing it with the US product.