Media Acquisition Strategies for Real-Time Events

By Aarthi Rayapura February 2, 2017

Zuora’s recent breakfast panel in New York City focused on “Real-time Offers and Promotions for Rapid Audience Acquisition” in the media space. Led by Craig Barberich, Zuora’s Global Head of Media Solutions, the panel consisted of Denise Warren, Todd Unger and Margaret de Luna who discussed how to think about your media business in real-time.

PANELISTS:
Denise Warren is on the Board of Electronic Arts, one of the leading game companies in the world and is the founder of Netlyst, a company that focuses on strategic advising on revenue strategies in the digital media space. Prior to that, Denise was responsible for much of The New York Times digital strategy.

Todd Unger is the Chief Digital Officer and Chief Marketing Officer at the Daily Racing Form. He has played a key role in bringing the 120-year old print publication into the digital age, including introducing a new betting platform, expanding premium offerings and integrating content and data across all platforms.

Margaret de Luna is the President of TheStreet. She’s transforming their strategy into being more nimble and flexible in the world of subscriptions. For many years at Dow Jones, Margaret focused on their strategy for MarketWatch and other properties.

In this series of posts, we present highlights from the panel discussion:

On Acquisition Strategies for Real-Time Events

Denise Warren: We live in a real-time, on-demand world. There’s no getting around that. Events have always driven subscription businesses. When I was at the New York Times, we saw peaks every time there was a news event. We are in an unprecedented moment in American politics, in international politics. I think there’s a moment here and it’s really important to capitalize on it. I’ve had lots of conversations in the last couple of weeks with folks in the industry about what they’re seeing. It ranges from people taking aggressive action to a lot of companies that have done nothing and they’re even seeing an increase. Clearly, if you’re going to do something, you’re going to be able to take greater advantage of it.

There are a few important principles for real-time events. To begin with, create a nimble organization. The nimbler you are, the more you’re going to be able to take advantage of these kind of circumstances. You’ve got to always look out for those unique opportunities. Even more importantly, in order to build and maintain and run a sustainable profit stream around this kind of business, you need to have disciplined processes in place. You need to have a real data-driven and consumer-focused mindset in order to be able to monetize for the long-term. The real focus has to be on building sustainable, repeatable models that will last you for the future.

The most effective retention strategy is a really good acquisition strategy. I was always telling my teams that if we want to improve retention, we have to be better at acquisition. When I say better at acquisition, it doesn’t just mean pumping up the numbers, it means looking at the customer lifetime value.

Todd Unger: Horse racing is an event-driven business and the events occur on a relatively similar schedule all year long. A part of the re-orientation of our business has been around those events, with a strong focus on weekends. As we thought and rethought what we meant to consumers in this space, we realized we needed to revolutionize our content model. We moved from thinking of ourselves as a 120-year-old newspaper brand to being a service that helped people play better and win more. Our audience bets on horse racing and about 85 percent of those bets go through in the last five minutes before the race goes off. If you think about that, the value of real-time data leading up to the point of action becomes incredibly important.

Our old model was based on the print model. We published two days in advance. We were closing on Wednesday for a Friday issue and then, we were publishing those news stories online. Sometimes, our reporters would watch a race and trundle back to the press box and write up a 1500 word article. While that’s important, the bigger value is in the lead-up, not in the recap.

So, I’m sitting at a track watching a race one day and thought to myself, “Where’s all the information I’ve been reading about all week long? I need help right now“. That led to the birth of DRF Live. We’ve got reporters on every one of those tracks, observing the track conditions, seeing horses in the paddock, talking to trainers getting inside information. All the value of those little tidbits was going to Twitter, not to us. So, we created a very simple platform that allowed our reporters to report in real-time and create a real-time stream of information. We first offered it for free and then ended up folding it into our premium content package called DRF Plus. People now have our eyes and ears on the track, giving them all that real-time information.

Margaret de Luna: TheStreet.com is our website, which is financial news and real-time talking about what’s going on in the market. It’s free and advertising based. On the subscription side of the business, which is actually the larger part of our consumer business, we have 11 investment-focused newsletters or services. TheStreet.com, the free site is our largest funnel for those subscription products. When we talk about real-time events, there are eight scheduled events that happen every year that drive markets such as the fourth earning season when Apple announces its earnings, etc. We know when these will happen and see a steady increase in traffic every time we hit those four times a year. Then, there are things like Brexit, the elections, etc which also impact the financial markets.

In a real-time event, we’ll see the traffic surge. But we were not able to react to it immediately. We have a homegrown system that required my marketing team to design an offer which would then go into a tech queue. Two weeks later, I’ve got an offer ready. It didn’t work. When I joined eight months ago, one of the first things we started looking at was – How can we be more dynamic? A lot of the offers that people get right now are driven off of a business rule that was created five years ago. The audience ignores what we put in front of them. It doesn’t matter to them.

We’ve brought in marketing automation segmentation tools, so we can start digging into the data. The rules that we’re starting to think of is based on user behavior and we can layer on that real-time event once we roll out Zuora and that will allow the team to be able to react to events immediately.

Continue reading the panel’s thoughts on Creative Media Pricing Strategies