Building a new revenue stream at Greentech Media
About Greentech media
Greentech Media (GTM) is a business-to-business news and market analysis site covering the clean energy industry, including solar power, next-generation electric grids and energy storage. Its audience includes anyone that works in that ecosystem, from the technology vendors – hardware or software vendors that build products that enable this new energy future – to the buyers of that technology: large electric utilities, solar developers, installers and project developers, industry consultants and financiers.
Founded in 2007, GTM has grown to become the leading source of information in the clean energy marketplace and has historically maintained a healthy profitability through a mix of digital advertising, research products and conferences.
GTM has a profitable three-pronged business model, focusing on three revenue streams: research, conferences, and digital media. Though the research and conference divisions were doing very well, the media site struggled with the same realities that many online publishers face: declining revenue from online advertising despite a growing audience size.
“Over the years,” said Rick Thompson, president and cofounder, “we’ve asked ourselves: How do we make the online media portion of our company more successful financially, even as display advertising continues to struggle?”
This driver led to the 2015 launch of GTM Squared, a subscription service that offers exclusive content, including research briefings, podcasts, and articles not available to visitors of the free website. The product came about after a commitment to improved audience analytics, customer research, and careful selection of partners and vendors.
Using Parse.ly to focus on the audience
Long before Greentech Media hatched the idea of creating premium content subscription, the digital team had used Google Analytics to monitor the readership of the site. The editorial staff, however, complained about accessibility to the information: it was too complicated for each reporter to log in individually, and group report emails only came on a monthly basis through Excel. When the company rolled out Parse.ly in 2012, the dashboard’s focus on media and publishing helped the editorial staff understand what types of stories were resonating with the readers and audience.
Over time, GTM recognized what the team described as “a burgeoning middle class” in its online audience. This was partly due to the growth of renewable energy itself: as more people entered the sector, it created a new segment of people who weren’t necessarily top, C-level management, but were still hungry for more information. These readers could use information that would add more color than they could get by just reading the news, but they did not need (and would not pay for) the full, deep-dive market studies that Greentech Media’s research arm provided. A subscription service at a lower price than traditional market research offerings seemed like a viable product offering for this group of readers.
"In business-to-business media, if you’re doing it right — you know your audience. You’re focused; your goal is not to be the size of BuzzFeed."
—Rick Thompson, President and Co-Founder, Greentech Media
As the idea for the product developed, GTM asked questions and gathered data that helped inform both the service and the eventual go-to-market strategy. Data in Parse.ly uncovered content-level interest. For example, it became clear by looking at author level data that the service could market access to certain reporters on staff. Referral data helped pinpoint returning visitors that would be most likely to convert to subscribers, and the team could target marketing on those channels. GTM also made use of its large database of email subscribers by reaching out to the readers with the highest click-through rates. These loyal audience members were sent a customer survey that garnered a high response rate by offering a discount to the future GTM Squared product.
"Parse.ly is the Lingua Franca amongst the whole team. We’re all looking at it; we’re all looking at the same numbers. We forward our daily or weekly updates around, and we know that we’re all seeing the same thing."
—Nicholas Rinaldi, Online Marketing Manager, Greentech Media
Executing a Premium Content Solution with a Small, Lean Team
At GTM, the small team running digital initiatives makes the most of its resources. Instead of building all technologies in-house, GTM carefully evaluated and chose partners to bolster the team’s efficiency. Essential to the launch of GTM Squared, the team relied on technology partners, including:
- Parse.ly as its editorial analytics platform to help understand the audience for product development and marketing.
- Piano as the commerce solution. Piano allowed Greentech Media to build out the GTM Squared business model, providing the digital team with the flexibility to try different offers and price points while ensuring the subscriptions and gated content functioned correctly.
- Vector Media Group, as GTM’s long-standing development agency, to implement any customization and ensure everything was working correctly in coordination with the in-house digital team.
Working with these partners and others, the team successfully launched GTM Squared along with a site redesign in September 2015.
Launch lessons and deciding what's next?
There have been some early lessons GTM reported, many having to do with what customers say they will and won’t pay for, and what they actually will pay for. Overall, the subscription service has quickly become a revenue driver for the nine-year-old and profitable media site. The team is looking forward to growing the membership even more in 2016. “We’ve seen consistent subscriber growth, now into the thousands, since launching the product and look forward to enhancing it over time to provide continued value to our customers,” said Thompson.
In addition to continuing to refine the offerings of GTM Squared, the digital team is still focused on making sure that its readership is seeing value in the free online articles, and aligning those efforts with continued promotion of the premium product. In that effort, the website will be improving its recommended articles by using the Parse.ly API to power recommendations through reader profiles.
“This is all of strategic importance to scale the offering, ultimately enabling us to be less reliant on digital advertising as a revenue source,” added Thompson.
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