It is already apparent that 1998 is going to be a crucial year for
publishing companies on the Web. Phrases not heard before in connection
with Web publishing - such as ’in profit’ - are being spoken out
One of those talking this language is Emap Consumer Online. It expects
to be in profit by the end of March, for the first time in its 18-month
history. The profit will not be big, but it will be an important signal
of a new phase of development for Emap’s consumer titles.
The company has just revamped the look and feel of its portfolio of
sites - which comprises FHM, Campaign’s Medium of the Year; the film
magazine, Empire; the music titles, Select and Q; a portfolio of
motorcycle magazines grouped under Motorcycle World and a number of car
magazines grouped under Car World.
Over the next three to six months Emap will take the big step of adding
transactional services to the sites. Stage three will be no less
significant: the introduction of subscription charges.
The woman in charge of this bold project is Katarina Strupinska, Emap
Consumer Online’s director of publishing. Strupinska’s strategy is
clear: each site should offer a one-stop shop for consumers. ’We have a
number of strong propositions for consumers, particularly when it comes
to music and film, and we want them to come to us first,’ she says. ’The
Empire site focuses on films on release in the UK. We want people to be
able to see a trailer, read a review and buy a ticket, and we are
currently talking to a cinema chain. The same for music - hear a clip,
read a review and buy a CD.’
The adding of the transactional elements will, Strupinska hopes, achieve
a number of goals. The sites are already busy, but making them
all-inclusive one-stop shops should ensure traffic increases
significantly, with people spending more time in each site.
Strupinska will also attempt to draw more banner advertising to the
Emap has had some success with sponsorship, notably on its Motorcycle
World site, with Lloyds offering bike financing, and a version of BMG
Interactive’s CD-Rom quiz game, ’You don’t know Jack’, on FHM.
’We are very interested in offering bespoke advertising solutions. With
’You don’t know Jack’, we created a mini-version of the game as an
interactive competition and we had 20,000 responses,’ she says.
But perhaps the most interesting item on Strupinska’s agenda is the idea
of charging for content.
Subscription of any kind is still rare on the Web and almost unheard of
in the consumer arena. Strupinska is unabashed: ’People already pay for
these magazines in the print form and all we will be doing is getting
them to subscribe to certain sections of our site.’
Some might be sceptical about the willingness of people to pay to search
back copies of Q, but Strupinska points to the Motor-cycle World site,
whose forums have 12,000 members, and suggests that paying for expert
online advice could be another revenue avenue. The same goes for the
classic car part of its car site - consumers could book time to engage
the experts on a one-to-one basis. ’The specialist areas will be the
first to have paid-for content and that should be in place by the fourth
quarter of 1998.’