Power of the paywall
While paying for content might not seem particularly innovative, it is at a time when the internet offers a free information buffet, which is why the success of Dish – which won Best Publishing Innovation at the MPA Awards for its paywall – came as a surprise to many in the industry.
“We had an extensive back catalogue of recipes that we felt to be of value both to the business and our readers,” says Dish editor Lisa Morton. “We’d been re-visiting a small portion of these in annual themed collections, such as Baking Dish, Everyday Dish and Entertaining Dish. The success of these publications reinforced our belief in their value, so when it came to revamping our website in 2015, making our recipe archive available digitally was an essential component.”
Paywalls, of course, are a tricky thing to pull off. But Morton says the value is in the product, and that loyalty from Dish readers stems from the fact that they know the magazine’s recipes work.
“While the standard approach to digital recipe content is free distribution, we felt Dish branded recipes were enough of a trusted source that we could ask for a subscription fee to access them.”
“Our belief was the biggest opportunity would be to convert existing print subscribers to print and paywall by asking a small premium, providing the convenience of access to the full back catalogue and across devices,” she says.
Dish has also generated additional revenue by creating sponsorship promotions with partners and ‘unlocking’ recipes using particular ingredients, such as when Rangitikei Chicken sponsored a series of chicken recipes on the website. Dish was also early to embrace Facebook, with food editor Claire Aldous creating weekly Friday baking recipes for a number of years, attracting more than 500,000 followers.
But not all of the magazine’s innovations have worked out in the long run, with trial and error proving inevitable.
“Sometimes we invest in things that don’t perform as we would like, but we’ve never been afraid to try something and if it doesn’t work, recognise it and move on,” says Morton. “Before revamping the website, we trialled a Dish iPad app version of the magazine. It was a thing of beauty, with multiple layers, integrated video and sound. Unfortunately, each issue took as long as the print publication to design and the return on investment ultimately just didn’t stack up.”
But there have been plenty of Dish innovations that have worked out over the years and Morton insists the magazine has plenty more to offer as it looks to capitalise on what it’s done so far.
“Like other media brands we’re interested in how to integrate video or podcasts, but rather than jump on a bandwagon we’re looking at how we can create authentic premium content with a small editorial team.”