Yoni Greenbaum: “What parts of digital publishing are you not maximizing fully?”

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Yoni Greenbaum, right, speaking at the Digital Publishing & Advertising Conference last week.

The temptation for news publisher’s to paper over revenue holes with the latest and greatest technology solution is rampant. Many have raced from paywalls, to tablets, to mobile, and back again. In the face of disruption, it is understandable to want to chase a single fix-it, rather than look for a multi-revenue approach that leverages all assets in a content library.

That was an overarching theme during Internet Week in NYC at the Digital Publishing & Advertising Conference panel discussion “Subscriptions, Paywalls and Real Money. Will Users Pay Up or Fade Away?

Perfect Market publishing partner Yoni Greenbaum, Philadelphia Media Network‘s Vice President and General Manager, Digital was the focus of much of the convesation as he tried to bridge an understanding between the print side of news and the growing digital side, in that each has a different approach to monetization.

The big takeway was imparted when an audience member asked Greenbaum how smaller business-to-business publishers could survive in the face of content-gating and paywalls.

Audience question (edited for brevity): How can B-to-B sites and smaller content publishers, who can’t get people to pony up for the paywall, survive online?

Greenbaum: I think it’s really about looking at everything the [publisher] has to offer. And looking at the opportunities that they have that would allow them not to go down that paywall model. One of the things we’ve done — the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News generate lots of content, e.g., sports, international, business, etc. It’s very hard to find it all on the website, it’s something that we’ve struggled with.

We’ve really started working to monetize that search-based user. We drive revenue through the search traffic that is coming in. So, I think, for them, look beyond just the paywall and look beyond display advertising. Ask: What other parts of their digital life are they not maximizing fully?

Another panelist noted that many more data sources are coming online to help publishers analyze what ad revenue may be missing from the equation, again highlighting a theme that publishers may be under-serving the audiences they have today, in favor of chasing newer pursuits.

Last week, at the simultaneous WWDC 2011, Steve Jobs revealed Apple’s Newsstand, a centralized place where all newspaper and magazine subscriptions can be stored. It is being touted as “a direct line between magazines and newspapers to your iOS device.” Needless to say, online publishers had mixed reactions.

Moderator: Apple has 225 million credit cards. Is Apple the best hope for charging for news? They announced Newsstand this week. Does that fill you with optimism?

Greenbaum: Definitely not. There are two pieces. Newspaper publishers are still struggling on the technology side on building these applications and really taking advantage of what the devices have to offer. On the revenue side, at this point, the idea of having to give Apple their 30%, or give Amazon their 70%, or give anybody else another piece of it, it’s just is something I don’t think publishers can continue to do. I think a multi-stream revenue model becomes very attractive right now.

Interestingly, a day after Greenbaum’s comments about Apple’s, and other technology vendor’s onerous deals, Apple announced it would reverse its app store subscription policy for publishers.

For more on Greenbaum’s discussion visit the DPAC livestream video capture from the event.

You can also follow him on Twitter: @yonigre

Special thanks to Perfect Market’s James Arthur; Erin Freeley (@freels77) and Rachel Peterson for their coverage of this discussion.

— Sheigh Crabtree

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