Dennis Publishing has expanded its lead generation division, capitalizing on its lucrative business of collecting data gathered from readers of its 30 or so titles.

The 50-strong team of Dennis Publishing’s Nowse offers clients information about the ways people are engaged in the buying process for products related to topics the publisher covers, such as information technology, autos and finance. Previously, Dennis offered lead generation services linked to its IT titles but now has expanded its efforts to other categories and grown its team over the last 18 months. It’s also provided new training to existing members of the team.

Traditionally, a lot of lead generation activity in publishing has relied on readers filling in a form to unlock special content. The problem, according to Nowse managing director John Webb, is that many readers who participate in this activity are already far along in their buying process. Also, he said the use of this type of form generates “false positives,” people who are interested in unlocking content rather than speaking to someone about a product or service, he added. The result: Clients have too many low-quality leads to sift through.

“The challenge is in the traditional [lead generation] model,” he said. “There has been some resistance [in evolving the model] because lead gen has become a dirty word. It’s become a race to the bottom and equated with low-quality leads, and there are some cowboys in the space.”

In the past, auto companies have found it hard to establish when people want to buy high-end or luxury cars. Plenty of people read content about car brands like McLaren without really being in the market to buy them, Webb said. Nowse is currently running test campaigns for clients in connection with the readership of Dennis titles Auto Express and Money Week. By combining data from its audience’s reading habits with freely given user information from its other titles, Dennis can share with its clients better quality leads based on richer data, thus improving how it identifies and predicts where users are in the buying cycle.

For example, Dennis could marry content-browsing data from its Auto Express readers with information provided by its Money Week readers about whether they are interested in buying more expensive products. Dennis can also infer users’ income after scanning user data from its web title IT Pro to find C-suite level readers. And the publisher now plans to offer clients user information as part of ongoing partnerships rather than merely through one-off campaigns. Its clients include IT tech services companies, automotive manufacturers and financial institutions, although Webb declined to share details.

To help gain sales leads for several automotive manufacturers, the publisher is also testing artificial-intelligence technology on Auto Express. The tool ingests all the reviews published on Auto Express about cars from a specific manufacturer and Dennis uses this to power an AI-driven chat function on Auto Express. The chat function lets a user select an activity, like booking a test drive. As a result, the client receives qualitative data about what readers are asking about and what they are interested in. “We’re trying to break that mold and move toward quality,” said Webb.

In an attempt to diversify their revenue, publishers are increasingly offering services that are aimed at businesses (in addition to ones directed at consumers). The appeal for publishers is that these services rely on companies’ footing the bill. The Financial Times shared its plans to create a consultancy, FT Strategies, in October. In November, Politico announced a new business-to-business tech site, Protocol.

Nowse is powered by data from the publisher’s 30 titles, which include The Week, IT Pro, Auto Express and Money Week. With all its titles combined, Dennis has 4.2 million unique monthly users, according to Comscore statistics from December 2019.

Dennis plans to add to Nowse’s 50-person staff, which includes five people in the U.S. (where Dennis is launching The Week Junior in March). As it grows its client list, Nowse will hire more sector-specific employees.

Nowse is now set up to create longer lead generation campaigns. Two years ago, Dennis had a handful of clients that bought its lead generation services in connection with IT Pro, typically for one- or two-month campaigns that cost £5,000 ($6,500) to £20,000 ($26,000). Over the last six months as Dennis has expanded the range of titles it offers services for. And Nowse now has dozens of clients, including multinational companies, that are spending six-figure sums and becoming repeat customers.

“This is seen as a growth aspect and growth focus of the business,” Webb said. “That’s why we are investing in the [Nowse] brand.”

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