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#paywalls12 – Looking outside: five paid-content lessons from Denmark, Slovakia and Slovenia

February 23rd, 2012 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Paid-for content

Copyright: Dreamer, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the sessions of today’s Paywall Strategies conference focussed on lessons from other countries, hearing from Berlingske Media, Denmark’s largest private media company, and from Piano Media, which has set up national subscription models in Slovakia and Slovenia.

Mads-Jakob Vad Kristensen, director of digital development at Berlingske Media, which has 2,000 employees and generates €400 million-a-year in revenue, explained how a range of titles, including tabloid, business-to-business and business-to-consumer publications are charging for content.

Not comfortable with the term paywall, Vad Kristensen shared the publisher’s lessons.

He gave the example of how Berlingske Media title BT Plus started by removing content “nice and slowly”, beginning to charge readers in April 2011.

Perhaps due to the season, a surprise first success in encouraging people to pay was an article on ’17 ways to spring clean your house’.

1. People will pay 

“If you have the right content people will pay for it, even in the consumer space,” he said.

However, he admitted the publisher “has not yet cracked” what makes young people part with their cash.

2. Travel guides are a hit

Another lesson from the Danish publisher is that “travel guides are a hit”, with people prepared to pay for digital city guides.

Many go on to pay for a €4-a-month subscription as that is the same price as an individual guide. And then they forget to cancel their subscriptions.

3. Micropayments do not work

People will not pay for individual articles, was another lesson from the Danish publisher – even for an article advising people on “how to become a super lover” did not generate a single Kroner.

Mobile is going towards a paid model and digital is growing, Vad Kristensen said, revealing that “within a month we should have a new B2B offering, priced at around €40-a-month, purely digital product.”

4. Look at new forms of content

Vad Kristensen also urged publishers, especially of B2B and B2C titles, to consider the payment opportunities with new forms of content.

“It’s stupid to only look at content that has existed for 200 years.”

Tomas Bella – the CEO of Piano Media, the company behind group paywalls in Slovakia, which launched in April last year, and Slovenia, which went up last month – shared his lessons.

5. Group models work

A joint model where several publishers team up to charge readers works, said Bella, giving examples of successes and feedback from publishers in Slovakia and Slovenia.

The individual titles decide how much content to put in the paid-for section of the site, which ranges from 0 to 60 per cent.

The site to have joined but has not put any content behind the wall is a TV station with an ad-free site. It took the stance that it is not losing anything – and some confused customers even sign up and pay.

“Some titles even charging for commenting”, Bella said, resulting in “the quality of the discussions actually go going up”.

“It is not ideal” but you do “scare away” problem commenters, Bella said.

Bella explained how 40 per cent of the revenue generated goes to the site which saw the reader join and pay, the rest of the money is divided between the sites where the reader spends his or her time.

And Piano Media has big plans: it expects three to four countries to adopt the group model in 2012 and has an overall target of 50 countries, requiring four or five publishers to participate.

The UK is “not likely to be the first English-speaking country” to adopt the model, but sees strong possibilities for a joint paywall around areas of content, such as sport.

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Online Journalism Scandinavia: Mecom’s Danish arm will cut costs with open-source CMS

December 23rd, 2008 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

Mecom-owned Berlingske Media, Denmark’s biggest daily newspaper publisher, has decided to ditch its costly online publishing system for open-source software Drupal.

As Journalism.co.uk reported earlier this year, Berlingske Media already runs some of its sites on Drupal – a free content management system (CMS).

After a long period of deliberation, the Danish division of Mecom, the ailing pan-European media group headed by former Mirror-boss David Montgomery, has decided to make Drupal its online publishing system of choice.

“It is no secret that economy means a lot to us, but if the system had been unstable and not user-friendly, the price would not have been decisive,” Berlingske’s CEO Lisbeth Knudesen told eJour (in Danish).

She particularly praised Drupal for being so much more flexible than traditional publishing platforms.

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Online Journalism Scandinavia: Mecom’s Danish arm may ditch costly CMS for Drupal

July 11th, 2008 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Newspapers

Berlingske Media, Denmark’s biggest publisher of daily newspapers, is considering making free open source software Drupal its online publishing system of choice.

Former Mirror-boss David Montgomery’s Danish lieutenant, Lisbeth Knudsen, is contemplating the move, which could save a substantial sum of money – but it does not come without risk.

Berlingske Media already runs some of its sites on Drupal – a long-time favourite free content management system (CMS) of web hacker-geeks – but many consider the open source solution more vulnerable to hackers than proprietary systems.

“Our sports portal, launched early in June, is developed in Drupal, and we will use this for more sites. We are in the process of evaluating future online solutions, and will make a decision on this later this year. So far we have chosen Drupal for some of our smaller sites and Saxotech online for the bigger,” Knudsen told me.

But is Drupal up to the task?

The Danish newspaper publisher is in the process of integrating all its titles into ‘verticals’ that deliver copy across platforms and titles, and its sports site carries material from several of Berlingske’s titles.

Henning Sund, head of digital development for newspaper publisher Edda Media, is sceptical about how well Drupal is suited to such large-scale projects.

”I think part of the reason Berlingske Media is considering Drupal is that they are so desperate to get away from Saxotech Online. That is a desire I understand perfectly,” he said, explaining that Edda Media, Mecom’s Norwegian division, is also in the process of replacing Saxotech Online, but Drupal is not a candidate.

”I do not feel the security in Drupal is well-documented enough. We want a provider that can take responsibility for this, something we will not get with Drupal,” said Sund, adding that you also have to spend a lot of money on developing the desired functionality in Drupal, as it is not ‘plug and play’.

Berlingske-owned AOK.dk, a city guide for Copenhagen that runs on Drupal, has used an east European company to develop extra functionality in Drupal – a concept that has been exported to Berlin and Mecom Germany.

However, Sund does not think that Mecom boss Montgomery will impose Drupal as the standard CMS throughout the company should it be a success:

“Montgomery has made it very clear that as long as you reach your budget targets, you can choose the solutions you see fit. However, if you do not reach these targets, you will get Montgomery breathing down your neck, and that is something you would do anything to avoid.”

For more news on newspapers harnessing open source read about The Jewish Chronicle’s launch of a beta site using Drupal.

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Online Journalism Scandinavia: David Montgomery’s toughest general – Lisbeth Knudsen, editor-in-chief of Berlingske Media

June 23rd, 2008 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

Once so controversial as the boss of The Mirror, over the last few years David Montgomery has reinvented himself as a European media mogul.

As head of the pan-European media company Mecom, Montgomery has emerged as an internet evangelist and one of the most optimistic advocates of a multimedia future.

This is good news for Lisbeth Knudsen, CEO and editor-in-chief of Mecom’s worst performing subsidiary.

Denmark’s Berlingske Media is the biggest publisher of daily newspapers in one of Europe’s toughest newspaper markets. Revenues of paid for dailies in Denmark have been ravaged by a costly two-year-long freesheet war.

When Montgomery bought the Danish company in 2006, it had a paltry 3.5 per cent profit margin – miles away from the 15 – 20 per cent Montgomery was promising his investors.

But it’s all grist to the mill for Knudsen, who rumour has it secured her job last spring by submitting the longest list of potential cost cuts.

Montgomery’s toughest general has been charged with justifying his professed faith in the profits to be made from the new media world.

“It is my task to deliver what I have promised, but also to tell Berlingske’s journalists that we have exciting times ahead of us. It is necessary for our survival that we start using new work processes, develop our journalism and launch new digital products. Old traditions are no longer enough,” Knudsen told Journalism.co.uk

Her first act as head of Berlingske was to publicly denounce Mecom’s profit demands as unrealistic.

Simultaneously, she made it crystal clear that the financial situation required radical changes, skilfully lowering the expectations of both her boss and the unions.

Integrate everything
Central to those changes is integration. Not only converging media platforms, but also altering most of the company’s titles into ‘verticals’ that deliver copy across platforms and titles be they broadsheet, tabloid or regional newspapers.

Berlingske may have created one of the most integrated media operations in Europe, but it has also caused great concern among the company’s journalists about work flow, work culture and how it may erode the different media brands.

“Everyone has to be able to work and plan to all media platforms. Journalists get more resources to cover events in this way. Instead of sending three journalists from three different platforms or titles, we will now have one journalist cover the results of a football match, one live blogging it, and one writing the portrait of the game’s top scorer,” said Knudsen.

To ensure editorial standards, she added, each title will have a brand manager to makes sure it runs only content that is appropriate and in line with its specific values.

Discontent
These assurances have not been enough, however, to assure the domestic journalists union. It has voiced continuous concern about merging titles, job cuts and the new ‘integrated’ work environment where journalists are confined to hot desks to create a paperless environment.

Knudsen says that new technology is necessary. Adding that the increase in the number of tools at the disposal of her reporters has also created many exciting new opportunities for journalists.

“This integration is necessary to survive. Journalists today have to accept that they have to fight for every pair of eyeballs. I accepted this job because I believe, both as a journalist and as CEO, we can create something great in this company,” she said.

Not here to please

As for her proprietor, she said: “It is my impression that you can have a discussion. If I am to be in charge of this, I have to believe in it. I have made it very clear that I’m not here to please. I have a very open and direct dialogue with the management about our goals and progress. During my thirty-something years in the newspaper industry I’ve encountered a lot of unprofessional owners. Mecom is a very professional owner, the company imposes certain demands to our revenues, but that is the way it has to be.”

David Montgomery may have got himself a straight shooter, but what impression is she likely to have made on her newsroom staff? It seems she is a journalististic champion who is both admired and feared.

“If anyone can stand up to Montgomery it is she. She is completely ruthless and resembles Montgomery in many ways. I cannot think of anyone in Danish media who dares to pick a fight with her,” said a journalist who has worked with Knudsen but did not wish to be named.

“But her journalistic integrity is above reproach. She is a journalistic champion.”

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