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Publishers: pivot to accelerate enterprise subscriptions

Jon BentleyBy Jon Bentley
Category - Blog

Monday 30th January 2017

Over the last decade commercial publishers have moved onto new distributed platforms. The old B2B model of one to one publishing – a single, high-value magazine sold to a single user – has shifted successfully to enterprise selling.

Incisive Media, whose innovation and forward thinking has won them multiple awards, took the opportunity to sell “one-to-many” on digital platforms early. One magazine to many users. In fact they went further and found a model that enables them to sell news and insight across many related sectors to many users. A “many-to-many” model that fueled enterprise subscription success based on understanding individual use.

In this context, understanding the relationship with the individual remains paramount.

The new challenge is how to manage individual relationships within an enterprise or institutional subscription.

One thing is clear – IP recognition as a means of authenticating and authorising enterprise subscriptions is not fit for purpose. A lack of security and a lack of transparency are just the most obvious problems.

It is the relationship between the individual institutional user and the publisher that fuels engagement. It enables personalisation. It builds associated commercial opportunities like conferences, awards or professional services. It creates the data for successful advertising campaigns – programmatic or otherwise.

But managing the data comes with an administrative headache.

  • A publisher sells an enterprise subscription for 1,000 users.
  • They request the names for 1,000 suitable employees.
  • A month later the list of names come back.
  • Weeks later the names are loaded into the subscription management system at the publisher.
  • The activation email goes out to the users. 25% of people open it.
  • Only 50% of them set their password.
  • 50% of them forget their password.
  • A year on 25% of left the company and the subscription management system is sitting on a pile of in-active or dead accounts.
  • The renewal conversation starts and people are scratching their heads …. why so little user engagement?

But it doesn’t need to be like this.

The user data – attributes like usernames, job titles, roles, groups, sites, passwords – can all be managed by the enterprise themselves.

If the publishers have the confidence and the bravery to let go of the authentication process – they will gain so much more.

All enterprise accounts active. All nominated individuals have access. No forgotten passwords. No dead records.

Instead authentication is managed by the enterprise themselves. The publishers focuses on authorisation.

And provided the appropriate permissions are agreed when the subscription licence is signed all the valuable individual data can be passed within the meta-data of that authentication and authorisation process.

Does the publisher want to build personalisation around the user? No problem.

Does the publisher want to set access based on job roles or location? No problem.

Does the publisher want to understand the usage patterns, engagement and content consumption of the individual? No problem.

But letting go of control is never easy.

The publisher has to pivot their perspective and realise that the institution itself is the best agency to control their subscriber data in a digital world.

And then follow these seven simple steps:

  • Successfully sell the site or enterprise licence to the new customer who can’t wait to get their employees accessing their valuable new digital resource
  • 2. Agree and sign off on appropriate licence and data sharing permissions
  • Connect the organisation and the publications using federated single sign-on
  • Let users know the resource is available and accessible with their every-day username and password
  • Track, monitor and engage with the individual subscriber
  • Build a personalised service that meets their needs – including relevant content, alerts, events, services and even advertising
  • Renew the service based on increase usage from a live, active set of individual subscribers

But the hardest thing to do is to let go of control.

Once the publisher realises they are not best placed to manage their customer data – but the customer is – then the publisher can focus on the most valuable indicator of success. Engagement.

To find out how OpenAthens enables publishers to connect with customer directories register for our next webinar.

Or download our whitepaper that discusses the inherent risks in IP recognition as a substitute for authentication.


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