ArtsHub, a jobs site for creative people, is an old hand at content marketing. It’s been in the game of publishing content for its customers since soon after it began, which was initially as an email newsletter, back in the year 2000.
This week, artsHub moved to capitalise on that leadership position by introducing a paywall around most of its content. It is a bold move and one that is against the trend for most content marketers, who are creating and sharing free content in order to build the trust and interest of their customers.
But editor-in-chief, Alex Prior, is confident that the strategy will work. “You need to have a defined niche. The niche is king. And you need people [writing content] who are expert in their subject area, the people that your market really wants to read.”
The decision is, in part, the result of a recent acquisition: in August, artsHub bought Screen Hub, a job site for the film and television industry.
Screen Hub became independent again when Simon Baker, the former CEO of realestate.com.au, and a small group of investor bought artsHub in 2006.
After the split, Prior immediately introduced a paywall around Screen Hub’s content. He says: “We realised we had very specialised information and people were prepared to pay for it, even back then, because they were reliant on it to get a competitive advantage in the market.”
ArtsHub’s move shows the ultimate potential of content marketing. “The end result of the content marketing process is that it shifts from brining people to the job’s page to being a commodity in its own right,” Prior says.
One of the big arguments against paywalls is that it takes great content out of circulation via social media. There’s no point in sharing locked content via Twitter or LinkedIn because the link leads to the paywall.
“Those arguments are very real,” Prior says. “You will notice a section called What’s On on the front page of the site, which will remain outside the paywall. It is a really comprehensive gig-guide designed to meet that challenge by creating new content outside the paywall so we don’t lose volume [of traffic].
ArtsHub has 30,000 subscribers and achieved 196,000 unique page views on editorial content in the past month, up from 87,000 earlier this year. Even more impressive is the average time a visitor spends on the site – 25 minutes – suggesting the readers are engaged with the 19,500 articles published on the site.
The artsHub experience offers a tantalising prospect for budding content marketers – to find a way of marketing that delivers revenue as well as customers. This might initially be in the form of advertisements on the site or on e-newsletters, and might eventually evolve into a paid subscription model. The crucial lesson is to devote the resources to the exercise. Prior says: “ArtsHub has been through periods where the content has not worked, and time when it has. When it hasn’t worked, it was low volume and written by generalists; when it works it is high value and written by experts.”