Where We Go from Here: Paid vs. Free, Advertising vs. Marketing, Content and Commerce: Industry Leaders Debate Future Revenue Models at DeSilva & Phillips Dealmakers Summit

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FUTURE REVENUE MODELS for publishers dominated the discussion at the DeSilva & Phillips Dealmakers Summit 2010 last month.

"We believe in content but we're struggling to monetize it," said Jeff Horing, managing director of Insight Venture Partners. "It's not really an issue now but it could be a problem in five years when we try to sell the business."

Magazines remain a more attractive opportunity than newsletters. "We would not invest in newspapers," said Richard Zannino, managing director of CCMP Capital Advisors (which owns Hanley Wood). "With magazines, maybe. Newspapers have a fundamental issue where they don't deliver as much value as their alternatives. With magazines, that issue doesn't exist as long as they're targeted to an attractive niche market."

Bloomberg chief content officer Norman Pearlstine explained what BusinessWeek offers. "Think of BusinessWeek as part of the whole Bloomberg ecosystem," he said. "It starts with a terminal where people pay $20,000 per year which offers access to news and data. BusinessWeek offers access to the executive suite."

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Pearlstine also expressed his doubts about the viability of pay walls. "In our experience, you can charge a lot of money for specialized information for an audience with a need for it," he added. "But for general interest, the value isn't there."

Making Online Advertising Work

While nearly all the conference participants seem to agree that online display advertising doesn't hold much promise, some participants said advertising could work if it's part of a more in-depth package. …