Comment: Report from content conference reveals tricks of trade

When you assemble in a single room the publisher of WSJ.com, the marketing director of ConsumerReports.org, and the programming VP of RealNetworks, you're going to hear some dramatic and revealing words about what works and doesn't work in e-commerce.

These sites are some of the largest content-sellers on the Web. The executives named above are just some of the luminaries who shared their tricks at ContentBiz.com's "Selling Subscriptions to Internet Content Summit" held in the US on May 21.

Now, for those who didn't make it to the event, ContentBiz has released the complete text and every PowerPoint slide of all 11 speakers.

Neil Budde of WSJ.com -- owned by The Wall Street Journal -- explains in his section of ContentBiz's printed, bound report how the decision was made to require registration as far back as 1995. He considers this key to the site's success, with 640,000 paying subscribers.

Consumer Reports' Michelle Rutkowski notes that many people don't realize that the nonprofit group's site is one of the most extensive subscriber-paid sites, with 886,000 dues-paying viewers.

Scott Ehrlich of RealNetworks describes how SuperPass, RealNetworks' $9.95-per-month video and audio feed of sports and other content, has managed to attract more than 600,000 subscribers, making it the 11th largest cable operator in the United States (if it were a cable operator).

You might think material like this would be ideal as an e-book or an online series of pages, but it's not. Weighing in at more than 250 printed pages, the printed book makes available a wealth of insider information -- including pointed questions from the audience and the answers provided by the experts -- that you'd never sit still for on a computer screen.

It's an expensive read at $199, but I predict that you'll find yourself sitting down and learning something in your first session that will help your own e-commerce site make more money. The text is printed in an unfortunate choice of Courier, and the slides are grouped at the end of each section instead of interspersed throughout. But I found I could extract tons of "meat" from this book by simply reading all the slides first, then going back to the text to catch any tips I missed.

ContentBiz editor Anne Holland says the next conference is scheduled for May 2003 in New York. There's no sense waiting for that, however, when you can get the best of today's e-business advice today.

"Selling subscriptions to Internet content": http://www.sherpastore.com@a2.tc/?4e63.

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