Hubert Burda Media is a private, family-owned printer and publisher based in Germany for more than 100 years. In addition to iconic names such as Elle, Bazaar, and InStyle, Hubert Burda Media supports hundreds of brands around the world.
As readers shift from print to to digital channels, traditional revenue streams are drying up for newspaper and magazine publishers. Increased cover and subscription prices can make up for declining newsstand sales and circulation numbers in the short term, but this isn’t a sustainable strategy as audiences move from print to digital devices at an ever accelerating rate. Traditional advertising and issue sales are shrinking faster than can be offset by new revenue from online subscriptions and the sale of digital advertising growing from 20 percent to 30 percent, year over year.
Publishers have long experimented with a range of solutions and technologies to adapt to the promise of the Internet and absorb the impact of digitally distributed content on their business models. Digitizing from a print to an online model has not been enough and the publishing industry clearly needs a third revenue stream, one that comes from readers. But who is “the reader”? What do they like? What do they read? What do they spend their money on?
Until now, it has been difficult to capture that information. Hubert Burda Media has stopped guessing and started to get to know its readers and their tastes with the powerful combination of new business thinking, the Burda-built “Thunder” distribution of the open source content management system Drupal, and the personalization technology Acquia Lift. With Acquia’s technology behind it, Burda has started converting anonymous users into known customers.
“We had the readers, and now we have the tools. Drupal and Acquia are helping us turn 52 million anonymous readers into addressable consumers.”— Ingo Rübe, CTO of Hubert Burda Media
Hubert Burda Media uses the Drupal distribution it developed and maintains, called “Thunder,” combined with Acquia Lift (as well as a few other technologies) to drive two main approaches to third-stream engagement and personalization. Thunder is a customized version of Drupal for publishing and media houses. Burda has not only built it, it has also open sourced it and invited other publishing houses large and small to use it and contribute their own improvements to it. It standardizes editorial workflows, adds freemium versions of services from a number of partner technology companies important to media – video transcription, online quizzes, for example – and more. The aim is to make Drupal Thunder the shared standard for media and publishing houses around the world.
On its digital magazine properties like InStyle, Burda engages broadly with anonymous users based on information about them gathered through a browser cookie. The data includes which content they consume, which products they use, and the context of their usage – how they got to the site (from a search on Google, a link on Facebook, etc.), have they visited before, how frequently they visit and how engaged with the content, and what kind of media and topics they prefer. Based on past data and usage patterns, looking at what anonymous visitors view lets Burda make educated predictions about what content could interest the reader in the future.
Personas can be assigned to various segments based on patterns and paths revealed by Acquia Lift. Visitors on subsequent visits to a Burda site will see personalized content on the homepage that is tailored to their interests, based on the behavior of other users within their segments. Efforts are also underway to understand the interests of visitors referred to the site by different referrers. For example, visitors arriving from a Google search result might ideally see different content than those who arrive via Facebook, despite the semantic content of the original referring link being similar.
The identity wall, building profiles, advanced personalization – Burda asks users to identify themselves by providing their email address – a piece of information many users are happy to divulge in exchange for access to attractive features like a newsletter, online quizzes and competitions, special content pieces, or eCommerce opportunities.
Burda is able to engage with these known visitors and convert them to customers and consumers of more than just ads. In addition to their basic information (location, arrival, visit history, media preferences), once Burda can identify a known reader, they can learn even more about them from subscriptions to special interest newsletters, open rates and click-throughs, reading and purchase history, and more.
This is only the beginning. With Acquia Lift and their knowledge about user personas in place, Burda can proactively engage with and respond to these users, stay in touch with them, and try out new upselling ideas or even totally new products on a known audience. The third revenue stream becomes a reality when Burda produces its own products in-house and uses its digital channels to sell its readers products that truly interest them.
The ultimate goal is to enable the company’s profit centers–the hundreds of Hubert Burda Media titles and brands around the globe – to generate the third revenue stream themselves by giving them a set of easy-to-use, self-service tools. Thus armed, the profit centers take over and are responsible for generating third stream revenue.
Thanks to Drupal and Acquia Lift, Hubert Burda Media is now able to better engage with its users and understand their interests. Through personalized content and offerings, Hubert Burda Media makes its digital titles even more valuable and interesting to its users, while opening up new opportunities for creating a third revenue stream for itself and its partners.
“Using Acquia Lift, we have a backchannel to the user. We use this relationship to build better, more accurate profiles, which in turn lead to the ability to deliver known users content and products that truly interest them ... recommendations and personalizations to achieve our business goals.” - Matthias Möller, director of project management, Hubert Burda Media Office of the CTO