Publishers ‘are going to have to make a leap’ says Dow Jones’ Jonathan Wright

Publishers need to “make a leap” in working out their business models, value their content and “not be afraid of partnerships” says global managing director of Dow Jones, Jonathan Wright.

Wright, who made the comments at a media round table discussion in Sydney yesterday, urged publishers to rethink their business models in their search for a sustainable future.

“I think you could draw an interesting graph in the evolution of media consumption and the business model,” he said when asked what he would tell publishers looking into a subscription model.

“Of course a lot of people are stuck in this ‘well by doing X online, would impact our traffic and we only have ads..’, sometimes people are going to have to make a leap and I think you’ll see more and more publishers do that.”

He said publishers shouldn’t be “afraid”, and should value their content.

“It’s your content, you pay to create it. You have done the fact checking on it, and you are the bastion of that content, therefore treat it like that,” he said.

“Don’t let people commoditise it. Don’t let people tell you it has to be for free.

He said it was also important for publishers to work out what differentiates then, and look at the space they want to play in.

“No one knows the answer yet, everyone has tried different models of paywalls or specific verticals,” he acknowledged.

But he said people will pay for niche, deep understanding of a particular topic.

While 80% of digital advertising dollars are going to media giants like Facebook and Google, Wright said there was still an opportunity for publishers to create a community, and urged them to think about how they are working with advertisers, the creatives they’re using, and the customer content solution.

“And not be afraid of partnerships,” he added.

“Partnerships can be very positive for both parties involved and that’s not just traditional publishers.

“It’s doesn’t have to be just traditional media, it can be digital, it can be digital only, and I think it’s to explore those options.”

For Wright, Dow Jones’ The Wall Street Journal’s partnership with The Australian is key to driving membership.

“Australia specifically to us is a very important market. Internationally we have a number of partnerships. The Wall Street Journal is very proud of its coverage, its international politics, finance and business, but we are also aware that to properly penetrate other markets outside of our domestic market, it’s good to partner,” he said.

He said the relationship was “mutually beneficial.”

The Wall Street Journal is part of The Australian’s subscription package

The Wall Street Journal receives the majority of its revenue from membership – or subscriptions – and has done so for more than a year.

Wright said the subscribers are called members to move beyond the “transactional relationship”” to something which is “immersive at multiple touch points.”

He described it as a “sustainable” business model and added News Corp’s Dow Jones – which includes The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Factiva, and Dow Jones Newswires – has built out their offering, to change their relationship with advertisers.

“The reason that we are reasonably positive about advertising is that we’ve changed structurally how we are set up to address what is fundamental change in relationship with advertisers,” he explained.

“We’ve launched a solutions engine very recently and we’ve actually combined all our sales resources into one revenue engine for the first time in our history, so while we are seeing as many people are, print advertising decline, the fundamental need for companies and governments to tell their story and communicate is still the same.”

But Wright hinted the company was not reliant on advertising, in the same way other publishers were, with membership the most important part of strategy.

“With membership being our number one revenue stream, we don’t want advertising to detract from your experience of the journal, therefore we look at those engagement metrics,” he said.

“Advertising is core and fundamental to what we do, without a shadow of doubt. But membership, putting the customer – and the customer isn’t just our subscriber, our customer is our advertiser – so putting the customer at the centre of what we do and making our decisions based on them and the data we have and the experiences they have is what’s core.

“Absolutely what we are seeing and we expect the trend to continue is subscriptions membership, and when we say we feel we have found a sustainable and growing business model for professional journalism – that’s kind of what we are saying.

“Because a lot of publishers who are in trouble are reliant on advertising which we know is having challenges both in digital and print. Advertising is still a big chunk of change, and it’s also an important part of our relationships.”

How publishers can diversify their revenue streams and building a business without display ads are two of the sessions at the upcoming Publish conference. Click here to see the program and get tickets.



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