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Viable Business Models on the Web

Overcoming Online Publication Challenges

By: Richard Pond

Many publishers have not received the full benefit of migrating to the web or have chosen to only have a minimal online presence. The biggest obstacles being faced have been the complex technology required for a full featured website and the lack of copyright protection for online content. Cranium’s online publishing system over comes these obstacles and provides a cost effective solution even for the smallest publishers.

Migrating your publication to the web can be a daunting task. The three biggest components of a website are:

  • Content Management
  • Shopping cart
  • Subscription management

However, even having the best technology for you website is worthless unless subscribers come to your site! Online publishers have struggled with the “freemium” model. How much do you need to give away to entice the new subscriber? Include too much free content and you give away the store. Include too little free content and you don’t have enough content for search engines to find.

Cranium’s proprietary solution allows the search engines and site visitors to view a "Preview" of the premium password protected content and control user access to these same pages. A user performing a search will have access to your complete library. However, clicking on a search result will only display a preview of the page. This preview will show only a portion of the complete text.

The website owner can specify what percentage of the article should be displayed as a teaser to non-subscribers. The URL in the search engine results is the actual name of the file. No redirects are used so search engine rankings are maintained and bookmarks will function correctly. When logged in a subscriber will automatically receive the full text of the page.

This capability allows the publisher to put all of their valuable archives online because only paid subscribers will see more than a preview. The more content you have online the more likely a search will come up with your content.

Of course, the content pages must be SEO optimized. Cranium’s CMS creates SEO optimized pages with:

  • Meaningful URLs (file names)
  • Customized page titles
  • Meta data tags for description and key words
  • Headings and sub-heading tags
  • Abstract and snippets for a teaser of the full article

Sell the customer what they want

Once a visitor finds your site, the content must be easy to purchase. Not all subscribers want to purchase a full year subscription. Buyers may want a three month, six month or two year options. Alternative pricing may need to include automatic recurring billing. Additionally, the buyer may only want a portion of the publication. This could mean the purchase of a single issue or even a single article. Cranium’s CMS automatically creates the page tagging to support pay-per-view of individual issues or individual articles. Individual articles can be at set price or a sliding scale using the number of words in the article.

Up-sells can create additional revenue for the publisher. It may be desirable to charge a premium for access to archive articles or to have a base subscription that prevents printing with an up-sell for print rights. The options offered must be tailored to the specific needs of your audience and presented clearly and concisely enabling them to make a quick purchasing decision

Cranium Protects online content from unauthorized use

Once a user has purchased a subscription it is necessary to prevent unauthorized use. If they can cheat, they will. Your online web site must be protected through web page encryption and password sharing prevention.

Unauthorized password sharing is monitored and tracked.

  • Usage reports provide the detail necessary to negotiate increased numbers of seats for site licenses or seek remediation through enforcement of copyright statutes.
  • Rogue users can be automatically cut off as abuse occurs.
  • Enforcement rules can be tailored to the type of subscriber, consumer and small business subscriber, large business subscriber or overseas client.

The website owner can prohibit and prevent users from downloading, copying, forwarding or even printing EMS-controlled content.

  • On-line content is encrypted and can be viewed only if accessed from your servers. Locally saved copies of the content are unusable.
  • Online content cannot be copied and pasted into other documents or printed from a printer.
  • Right click functions: print, save and forward commands can be disabled to prevent content forwarding.
  • Effective with all major browsers including: Internet Explorer, Netscape, Firefox (Mozilla).
  • No plug-in or download is necessary to access online content.

Your website must be easy to use and valuable to your readers

Indexes by content topic or category and by issue aid subscribers in their search for information on your site. Cranium’s solution automatically creates indexes by:

  • Topic
  • Category
  • Company
  • Issue Date

The author (or editor) selects one or more topics, categories and companies for each story. The next update of the web site automatically puts the new article in the all the appropriate indexes.

The editorial staff must focus on topics that are tailored to your audience. This content must be updated frequently so that readers always find the content fresh.

How do you know what your readers want?

The interests of your audience change over a period of time. Certain topics become "hotter" and other topics lose popularity. Most web site analytics report website activity at a macro level. To make informed decisions about your reader's preferences

Cranium captures every page viewed by every user. It is easy to see how many times each page has been read. When a topic gets hotter you can see it by the clicks of your readers.

Furthermore, you can see which subscribers are not reading your publication. The first sign that a subscription is not going to be renewed is not reading the latest issue. A follow up customer service call could save those renewal dollars.


Cranium’s solutions use a hosted SaaS model. This approach reduces the implementation time and the usage costs scale to be affordable for all publishers, from the smallest to the largest.

The implementation cost depends on the complexity of the website and the integration with other systems. The migration of The Costs to migrate to a new CMS are comprised of start-up costs and on-going usage. Start-up costs are dependent on the complexity of your web site and the volume of articles to be migrated to the new system. The new data must be appended to the article to support delivery to the web site. This cost would include:

  • Writing snippets or abstracts
  • Specifying topics and categories for indexes
  • Defining file names that support SEO
  • Adding meta data key words and titles

The introduction of hosted (SaaS) applications has reduced up-front licensing fees. These hosting fees scale with the size of the publication, several hundred dollars per month for small publications to several thousand dollars per month for large publications.

These solutions have proven successful for other publishers. Please contact us to discuss your specific needs.