Bundling content is nothing new. Cable television companies, phone companies, and utilities have been bundling services for years, and magazine publishers have long handed out free gifts with paid subscriptions. With the shift from print to digital, many newspapers and magazines are offering bundled digital content as a way to shift revenue generation away from an anemic advertising model to premium membership, paywall, and subscription models.
Bundling your site's content can make it more attractive to advertisers and increase reader engagement, and there are countless ways of bundling content. Consider what would benefit your site's readers most when you embark on a content bundling strategy. Here are four content bundling ideas, ranging from the very inexpensive to the pricey. Maybe one of them would work for you.
In July 2012, Angry Robot (an imprint of Osprey) launched their Clonefiles bundling experiment, offering digital versions of novels published by Angry Robots free to customers when they purchased the physical versions. Within weeks, sales tripled. The project was designed to give readers a physical book copy they could give as a gift, swap, or keep in their personal libraries along with the convenience of e-books they could carry with them wherever their mobile device went.
Smashing Magazine is an online publication for web designers. The site is filled with information like photography tips, advice on fonts and iconography, and occasional freebies like icon sets you can download. They've packaged some of their content into e-books, which they offer individually and in bundles. Smashing Magazine's Content Strategy Bundle, for example, consists of two e-books, one on developing good content and another on copywriting. Each contains collections of the site's best articles, edited and prepared into e-book form. There are also bundles on coding, WordPress, and user experience development.
In 2012, The Economist convinced half its subscribers in the US to pay 25 percent more for the magazine's print and digital bundle. How did they accomplish this? Apparently, simply giving subscribers more options was the key. According to Nick Blunden, the magazine's global digital publisher, unbundling the subscription package to offer print only, digital only, or a print-digital bundle increased sales. Print-only subscriptions are $127, as are digital-only subscriptions. The bundle costs $160, and people are willing to pay a premium to get both. Currently one-quarter of subscribers choose print-only, another quarter choose digital-only, while the remaining half choose the print-digital bundle. "In a world where we are all struggling to monetize our content, that's had a significant impact," said Blunden.
During part of 2012, The Times offered subsidized Nexus 7 tablets to new digital subscribers. Customers signing up for an 18 month digital subscription could buy a Nexus 7 tablet for £50 (around $80 USD). The digital subscription included full access to the website, tablet app, smartphone app, and the Sunday Times tablet app. The Times weren't the first to bundle content with hardware devices. The New York Times and People magazine offered similar premiums in the past. To be fair, The Times had to do something. In 2010, the website put up an impenetrable paywall and saw disappointing subscription sales afterward. In addition to the Nexus promotion, they've also recently made their paywall a little less watertight, allowing articles to be crawled by search engines, though readers still have to pay to read them.
Digital publishers are realizing that advertising will not be the main driver of revenue growth in the digital age. Success is often a product of offering content in many packaged formats, for multiple devices. By bundling print offerings with their digital equivalents, amassing individual content products into e-book bundles, offering flexibility with print and paid subscriptions, and offering premium extras with subscriptions, digital publishers can aid audience development and increase revenues. Don't be afraid to experiment with content bundling. It doesn't have to involve a big capital investment, and there are countless options for you to tailor content bundles to your audience.
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