Mone­ti­za­tion Op­tions

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The on­line news au­di­ence is enor­mous and grow­ing, be­com­ing more mo­bile and so­cial. But in­stead of cap­i­tal­iz­ing on the op­por­tu­ni­ties it presents, many pub­lish­ers re­main par­a­lyzed by the pull of their legacy busi­ness mod­els and con­sumer of­fer­ings.

Trin­ity Mir­ror’s launch of The New Day in Fe­bru­ary 2016 is a good ex­am­ple. Even though only 45% of UK read­ers paid for printed news­pa­pers in 2015 (down eight per cent from two years ago), the ever-op­ti­mistic pub­lisher still called its new printed pub­li­ca­tion, “an ex­cit­ing and in­no­va­tive ini­tia­tive which builds on our con­fi­dence in

print me­dia.” I ap­plaud the pub­lisher for its will­ing­ness to try some­thing dif­fer­ent and per­haps tim­ing was not in their fa­vor. But what­ever the rea­sons, The New Day lasted only nine short weeks be­fore be­ing axed for lack of cir­cu­la­tion.

But Trin­ity Mir­ror is not alone; many pub­lish­ers are strug­gling to im­ple­ment a com­pre­hen­sive con­tent strat­egy that de­liv­ers the RIGHT con­tent to the RIGHT au­di­ence, at the RIGHT time, at the RIGHT price, through the RIGHT dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nels.

The right con­tent

Pub­lish­ers who haven’t suc­cumbed to temp­ta­tion to slash news­room bud­gets have got this right, fo­cus­ing on their core com­pe­tency of de­liv­er­ing qual­ity edi­to­rial con­tent. How­ever, many are still se­ri­ously miss­ing the prover­bial boat when it comes to serv­ing up qual­ity ad­ver­tis­ing, adding fuel to the ad block­ing firestorm hit­ting their web­sites.

The right au­di­ence and time

In or­der to at­tract and re­tain read­ers, pub­lish­ers need to in­vest in real-time an­a­lyt­ics to bet­ter un­der­stand peo­ple’s in­ter­ests and pref­er­ences. They need to de­liver dis­cov­er­able, fric­tion­less con­tent that meets read­ers’ unique needs, whether they be tra­di­tional news con­sumers or to­day’s more pro­mis­cu­ous dig­i­tal na­tives.

The right price

With only six per cent of UK read­ers pay­ing for dig­i­tal news, mon­e­tiz­ing con­tent has turned into a frus­trat­ing trial and er­ror game. Pay­walls in all their forms have been bounc­ing up and down like yo-yos. The Sun, Bri­tain’s big­gest sell­ing daily news­pa­per, tore down its wall last Novem­ber af­ter two years of try­ing to make it work. The

Fi­nan­cial Times re­cently sprung a few leaks in its pay­wall to en­tice more read­ers. Even the poster­child for me­tered pay­walls, The New YorkTimes with 1.3 mil­lion dig­i­tal sub­scribers, con­tin­ues to hem­or­rhage mil­lions of dol­lars on a quar­terly ba­sis.

The ‘Guardian approach’ – grow­ing read­er­ship by pro­vid­ing all of its con­tent for free – has suc­cess­fully built a 160-mil­lion-strong fol­low­ing world­wide, but that hasn’t helped curb the un­sus­tain­able losses it in­curs year af­ter year.

But pay­walls and mem­ber­ship pro­grams are just two ways pub­lish­ers can con­sider when look­ing to grow rev­enues. There are oth­ers; which leads us to …

The right dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nels

I’m a huge pro­po­nent for be­ing 100% cross-plat­form and of­fer­ing con­tent ev­ery­where read­ers are. I also strongly be­lieve that qual­ity jour­nal­ism de­serves com­pen­sa­tion; I just don’t think read­ers should nec­es­sar­ily be the ones pay­ing for it.

To­day, free and paid dis­tri­bu­tion plat­forms give read­ers a one-stop-shop for con­tent that ed­u­cates, en­ter­tains and en­gages them. But not all plat­forms are cre­ated equal.

Face­book In­stant Ar­ti­cles, Ap­ple News, Twit­ter Mo­ments and Snapchat Dis­cover all of­fer pub­lish­ers op­por­tu­ni­ties to make some money through ad­ver­tis­ing. Good choices for con­tent in­clude break­ing news, non-ex­clu­sive con­tent, na­tive ad­ver­tis­ing and cus­tom con­tent that link back to unique and com­pelling ar­ti­cles hosted on a pub­lisher’s web­site. But the risks of jump­ing all-in are sub­stan­tial, in­clud­ing the po­ten­tial loss of con­tent con­trol, ad­ver­tiser loy­alty, brand eq­uity, edi­to­rial and ad­ver­tis­ing free­dom and web­site traf­fic.

Tra­di­tional dig­i­tal news­stands (e.g. iTunes, ePresse and Kiosko

y Más) of­fer full-con­tent mag­a­zine and/or news­pa­per ti­tles through a pay-per-is­sue news­stand model. Th­ese plat­forms serve read­ers who are in­ter­ested in spe­cific pub­li­ca­tions, but de­liver few op­por­tu­ni­ties for smaller pub­lish­ers to get no­ticed by new read­ers.

There has been a lot of buzz over Blen­dle’s iTunes style mi­cro­pay­ment ser­vice in which read­ers pay pen­nies to read an ar­ti­cle. The jury is out on whether this model will work in English-speak­ing coun­tries where there is a wealth of free con­tent.

All-you-can-read or “Net­flix for News” plat­forms (e.g. Tex­ture by Next Is­sue, Magzter, Readly and PressReader) of­fer a con­ve­nient all-ac­cess sub­scrip­tion ser­vice for mag­a­zines. How­ever, PressReader is the only one that also in­cludes thou­sands of news­pa­pers. The model works well for avid news lovers who want ac­cess to mul­ti­ple pub­li­ca­tions and global view­points on cur­rent af­fairs, but is typ­i­cally too ex­pen­sive for ca­sual read­ers. Which is why PressReader started look­ing out­side tra­di­tional news chan­nels for busi­ness part­ners who’d be happy to pay on be­half of read­ers.

Spon­sored- ac­cess

To­day thou­sands of ho­tels, air­lines, cruise ships, li­braries, cor­po­ra­tions, gov­ern­ments, taxis and other in­sti­tu­tions spon­sor ac­cess to 5,000+ news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines on be­half of their guests, pas­sen­gers, pa­trons and em­ploy­ees – pub­li­ca­tions such as The Guardian, Daily Tele­graph, The Her­ald, T3, Wall­pa­per*, Le

Monde and The Wash­ing­ton Post, to name a few.

Cus­tomer-first com­pa­nies such as Qan­tas Air­ways, Ac­corHo­tels, Sil­versea Cruises, the New York Pub­lic Li­brary, Uber and even The Old Course Ho­tel in St. An­drews have made spon­sored ac­cess an in­te­gral part of their cus­tomer re­la­tion­ship strat­egy be­cause it makes dol­lars and sense to them.

It costs noth­ing for pub­lish­ers to par­tic­i­pate and when a busi­ness pays for con­tent read by their cus­tomers, the pub­lisher gets paid. Read­ers en­joy fric­tion­less ac­cess to qual­ity, trusted con­tent and an en­gag­ing user ex­pe­ri­ence for free. Busi­nesses are able to of­fer unique value to cus­tomers across all de­mo­graph­ics, grow­ing brand eq­uity and loy­alty. Mean­while, pub­lish­ers re­ceive in­stant ac­cess to a mas­sive au­di­ence of hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple they couldn’t reach on their own, help­ing them grow au­di­ence, brand aware­ness, au­dited cir­cu­la­tion and rev­enues.

The Bot­tom Line

The Na­tional Read­er­ship Sur­vey found that 91% of Bri­tish adults con­sume news in print and on­line with mo­bile adding 94% au­di­ence reach to brands. Ob­vi­ously the ap­petite for trusted con­tent is mas­sive and the op­por­tu­ni­ties to mon­e­tize that hunger are huge; read­ers just don’t want to pay for it. So what’s next?

Giv­ing up con­trol of dis­tri­bu­tion can be a tough pill to swal­low for some pub­lish­ers, but the fact is they need to think be­yond their ex­ist­ing con­tent borders and em­brace non-tra­di­tional chan­nels to max­i­mize en­gage­ment, rev­enues and prof­its.

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