Tag Archives: paid content

OJR: Apps v eBooks – are we missing paid content opportunity?

In an interesting post on the Online Journalism Review website Robert Niles weighs up the opportunities for publishers investing in apps versus eBooks. In his post Niles says he would be surprised to find a newsroom spending “even half of what its devoting to app development on eBooks”.

But with a quick look at the pricing of the top paid apps compared to eBooks, he says it is about time news organisations take “a serious look” at the eBook market.

There have been some recent examples of news outlets entering the eBook market and ultimately enhancing the shelf-life of news content as a result. Last month the Guardian launched its pwm new series of eBooks called Guardian Shorts, which started with Phone Hacking: How the Guardian broke the story.

According to Niles within the News category of the app store, the most expensive paid app in the top 20 was Instapaper at $4.99, compared to the Politics & Current Events category in iBooks, where he recorded that 19 out of the top 20 sell for at least $4.99.

Clearly, the public is willing to – and does – pay more for content in eBooks than it does in apps. That fact should encourage any serious news business to take a serious look at eBooks. But what about volume? That’s where I couldn’t find reliable data comparing sales in the app store versus sales of eBooks. But it’s clear from the pricing that a news organisation would need to sell many times more apps than eBooks for apps to have better sales revenue, given the higher price points routinely supported in eBook stores.

Read more here…

News International to rethink ‘iron-curtain’ paywall approach for the Sun

The Sun is to use a mixed model to charge for online content, according to News International head of marketing Katie Vanneck-Smith, although no date has been set for its introduction.

Speaking last night at a panel debate about paywalls and digital journalism models at City University London, Vanneck-Smith’s admission seemed to mark a shift in News International’s ‘iron-curtain’ approach to paywalls on it’s news sites.

She told the audience at the debate:

I think we all said that the models are mixed. So there are no plan at the moment, there’s no date, for when the Sun will have paid as part of its model for it’s digital website in terms of its news access.

When questioned by Media Guardian editor Dan Sabbagh about whether this marked a change in News International thinking, Vanneck-Smith replied: “We will introduce paid for content and services on the Sun in the future, I couldn’t tell you what the date is.” She would not confirm whether this would be in the form of a paywall, but earlier in the event she said that the newspaper was “of the view that mixed models and blended models are right and the best way to pursue, I think, a very vibrant and exciting journalism future for this country”.

Almost a year on from the Times and Sunday Times going behind a paywall, Vanneck-Smith said both were making more money digitally from their 79,000 subscribers than pre-paywall, when they had 20 million browsers.

Dan Sabbagh, the Guardian‘s media editor, revealed the newspaper would pursue a free content model and would move towards becoming an aggregator of news and opinion.

We want to become, as well as a provider of content, a content aggregator. People are very keen on participating with the Guardian, they want to be re-published on our site and they’d like us to sell their advertising.

We think it’s critical that we’re part of the conversation that people are part of.

And while I don’t have any big philosophical rejections to what the Times and Sunday Times are trying to do commercially, it seems like a perfectly proper strategy to pursue, I’m less convinced by the severity of their paywall model. In effect, the Times and Sunday Times journalism is outside the journalistic conversation

Sabbagh also revealed the Guardian site had its best day ever had best ever day when Osama Bin Laden died, resulting in 4.5 million unique hits compared with a daily average of 2.4 million uniques.

According to Geordie Greig, the editor of the Evening Standard, the paper is on course to make a profit by 2012, and would consider a paywall if he saw it worked elsewhere.

I think we will probably be on the verge of profit next year. Now I’m not saying that to say we’re better than them [other newspapers], I’m really it because we’re in a very difficult industry to make money.

I think everyone applauds the attempt by News International to make money, we really, really hope it works. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong in saying, if it does, we’re all going to copy it, that’s what happens in industry where there are leaders.

The Standard has experienced a huge turnaround in fortunes since going free back in 2009. Greig revealed the move had allowed the paper to charge 150 per cent for advertising space compared with old prices. Greig explained:

By changing our economic model, we were able to survive and thrive. Suddenly we become bigger and by bigger meant we could earn bigger sums of money.

We were losing a ton of money, we were losing between 10-20 per cent of our readers every single year and our debt was running into tens of billions potentially a year and this was unsustainable.

We made a decision to go free and the great thing was that made two competing papers in the evening leave the market so that made us in a more dominant.

Grieg also revealed prior to going free, the Evening Standard sold 700 copies at Oxford Circus. Now, it distributes 32,000 copies from that location on a daily basis.

Stevie Spring, chief executive of Future Publishing, suggested the problem with charging for content online was that it involved a change in mindset for users used to not paying for news, likening broadband access to an all-you-can-eat buffet.

The difference in a digital world is fewer and fewer people brought up in a world where everything online is free, there is an expectation of free. Or it’s not an expectation of free, but everybody has grown up believing that once you’ve paid for your broadband access, that’s an all-you-eat-buffet, that’s my library card, everything else is free.

You have a real disincentive to pay once you disaggregate the content from it’s packaging. When you have a physical artifact, a real DVD or real magazine or a real piece of paper, once I disaggregate the content from its pack, people aren’t sure what the value of the content in isolation is.

They expect it to be much cheaper because of course there is a marginal cost of distribution. However, what people aren’t seeing is the increasing cost of creation because actually it costs more to fulfill expectations in a digital world when people want 24/7, up the second with audio visual adapted and amended for every screen. So cost of production goes up.

Dominic Young, former director of strategy and product development for News International, said it was up to media organisations to innovate and find a solution.

The challenge for the industry and for everybody is to identify new models and pursue them with gusto. In that sense, I think what the Times and Sunday Times are doing is really important.

It’s no surprise to me that the companies making the most money out of the internet are companies which invest nothing in content. The companies which make the most money out of journalism directly and companies which tend to be parasitic aggregator, many of them just straightforward feeds.

On suggestion put forward for the Sun by Roy Greenslade in his Guardian column today, in response to last night’s debate, was charging for the newspaper’s popular online bingo games while keeping the rest of the site free of charge.

Slovakian media goes behind the paywall

Yesterday nine news outlets in Slovakia joined together to put up a joint paywall in front of parts of its content – some more than others – as part of a new premium content subscription model by Piano Media.

The platform means users pay a monthly fee of €2.90 ($4.20) for unlimited access to all sites.

Once users have subscribed they will automatically be logged in to all of the participating sites, which in Slovakia currently includes Pravda and SME, along with video portals, tv stations and magazines.

Publishers have decided how much content they wish to place behind the paywall, some closing almost all their content to non-paying users while others are leaving general news free and instead selecting content such as commentaries as premium material to be paid for.

The paywall launched yesterday with a free two-week trial, with charges coming into effect from 2 May.

We spoke to Piano Media CEO Tomas Bella, about the reaction from within Slovakia so far.

In the coming weeks and months there are plans to incorporate the subscriptions within Internet Service Provider packages, to be offered to users when they sign up for their connection, as well as launches in other countries such as the Czech Republic.

Bella told Journalism.co.uk the aim is for after the first year to have 0.8 to 1.5 per cent of internet users paying subscriptions to the system and five to 15 per cent after three or four years.

Will the Shropshire and Wolverhampton walls pay?

Part-paywalls have gone up at the UK’s biggest-selling regional daily, the Wolverhampton-based Express and Star, and at sister title, the Shropshire Star. Breaking news will remain free but other content, such as football reports, are now behind the wall.

But will Wolverhampton and Shropshire pay?

At £2.19 more a month than the Times, is £12.18 too high a price for a monthly digital-only subscription?

Last week the Times, which went behind a paywall last summer, announced that it has 79,000 digital subscribers and the Financial Times, which has been behind a metered pay model for 10 years as of yesterday, also claims success with 210,000 subscribers.

But the Times and FT have their own reasons for tens of thousands of digital subscribers. The Times had a huge push to create high-value content as it went behind the wall and the Financial Times is perhaps best seen as a specialist publication with a wealthy readership prepared to pay for financial news.

Paywalls put up by UK regional newspapers have been less successful. Johnston Press trialled a paywall in 2009, testing it on some of the group’s smaller websites, the Southern Reporter in Scotland, the Northumberland Gazette and the Whitby Gazette, charging just 40 pence a week for access. The wall was dismantled after three months as it was deemed not viable.

There is a difference in the Express and Star’s approach and Johnston Press’ tactics though, in that the Wolverhampton and Shropshire titles are trying to push their print subscriptions, adding digital as an optional extra and are charging just 40 pence a week more for the print, online and smartphone deal than digital-only.

The exact cost may not be the deciding factor in whether readers decide to get their credit cards out. The Johnston Press paywall was very cheap – just £1.71 a month – but few paid. The New York Times, which went behind a metered-paywall last week, believes readers will pay up to $35 a month, which is the cost for a combined online, iPad and smartphone subscription (though readers were eased in with a £0.99 a month charge).

The Express and Star has taken the bold step of becoming the first major regional newspaper in the UK to go behind the wall. If it invests in high value content, makes payment easy, has an engaged audience already and can convince advertisers a quality rather than a quantity of online readers is more important, then the wall might work. If not, then the wall may come tumbling down.

Express and Star deputy editor Keith Harrison has told Journalism.co.uk he is confident the premium content site will be a success.

Bloomberg: US publisher Gannett trialing paid-content model

US publisher Gannett (which is parent company to Newsquest in the UK) is trying out a paid-content model at three of its newspaper websites while it considers a broader online payment model, Bloomberg reported this week.

Chief executive officer Craig Dubow told Bloomberg that Gannett is likely to experiment more before making a decision about the broad use of paywalls.

Gannett’s newspaper in Greenville, South Carolina, has started charging readers $7.95 a year to access content devoted to Clemson University sports. Those subscribers view 40 to 70 pages per visit, compared with 6 to 8 pages on Gannett’s free websites, according to the McLean, Virginia-based company.

Read the full Bloomberg report here…

Telegraph web rumours: Is metered charging the best way forward?

Speculation that Telegraph Media Group is planning to start charging for some of its online content has been brought up again today by Marketing magazine.

The magazine’s report claims that the publisher is talking to digital agencies about overhauling Telegraph.co.uk and is considering a hybrid part-paid, part-free model from September.

Officially, TMG says it is keeping its options open, issuing a statement that “absolutely no decisions have been made on the introduction of a paid-content model. Like all publishers, TMG continually evaluates the developments in the digital sector”.

The metered approach, if adopted, means readers could access a small number of articles for free before being prompted to register, and could share links on social media.

Tech news site the Register, in its own inimitable style, discusses the issue in a post headlined: “Telegraph mulls cash alternative to suicide”.

“The Telegraph, like other papers, has spent a small fortune in building up a web audience of 31 million, chasing web fads with the dignity of a dad at a disco,” it says.

“But how fashions change. Losing most of the 31 million casuals who make up the Telegraph’s web audience may not be such a disadvantage if it can extract some value from the loyalists.

“Ad agencies naturally love qualified upmarket readers, and with the web, they’ve never been sure they’ve been getting them.”

Gordon Macmillan, writing on Haymarket’s social media blog The Wall, says the metered approach is winning the most favour with publisher so far, with the Daily Mirror apparently tipped to be considering a similar method.

“It is the one that makes most sense in how it relates to the rest of the web – containing within, as it does, a degree of openness that allows the essential social media seeding and sharing of content. That is essential.

He predicts that Mail Online – which is already the biggest UK newspaper website with a record-breaking 54 million unique users – will be the big winner if the Telegraph starts to charge.

The Guardian’s media editor Dan Sabbagh says the proposed model is “cautious” – and not so much a paywall as “a pay fence, sitting somewhere in the distance at the end of a large field.”

He writes: “True Telegraph fans will be discovered through the system, and the exercise might help bring some loyal readers into a new model of payment.”

European publishers to hold meeting over Apple’s proposed subscriptions change

Earlier this month it was alleged that Apple had told a number of European newspapers that soon they would not be able to offer print subscribers free access to iPad editions through the App Store.

According to this report by Apple Insider, Apple is keen to make the change to prevent publishers cutting it out of the 30 per cent fee it requires.

The story developed this week as reports such as this one by the Financial Times claimed that Apple had told book publishers customers could be given the ability to purchase books outside of an app as long as the same option is also available to customers from via an in-app purchase.

It’s not yet been confirmed whether this will apply to news media apps as well, although some reports are claiming it will.

Last week the International Newsmedia Marketing Association announced that it will hold an invitation-only roundtable on tablet subscriptions at the Park Inn Hotel at Heathrow Airport on 17 February, claiming that “Apple is changing the rules”. The roundtable will analyse Apple’s new plan, discuss ways to work with it and look at alternative subscription models.

Today paidContent reported that publishers in Belgium and France are taking the matter to the authorities, “making requests that Apple be investigated by antitrust watchdogs”.

Apple has not responded to requests for comment but paidContent points out that the situation may be made clearer later today when Apple’s VP of internet services Eddy Cue joins Rupert Murdoch to launch News Corp’s new iPad newspaper, the Daily.

Rumour mill cranks up over upcoming New York Times ‘paywall’

Rumoured details of the yet-to-be-launched New York Times ‘paywall’ are starting to emerge, with the Wall Street Journal reporting today on possible subscription plans, such as $20 a month for a digital bundle package or less than half of that for a web-only deal.

Under the new system, expected to be rolled out next month, the Times will sell an Internet-only subscription for unlimited access to the Times site, as well as a broader digital package that bundles the Times online with its application on the iPad, according to a person familiar with the matter. Subscribers to the print edition of the paper will get full online privileges at no additional cost, Times executives have said.

Speaking at the World Editors Forum last year, New York Times Company president and CEO Janet Robinson said the site will remain part of the “open web ecosystem” and will have millions of users referred to it by third-party sites by employing a “first click free” strategy, where readers can view one page on the site for free before being prompted to register or subscribe.

Joanna Geary: Microsharing – a future we’re ignoring?

Joanna Geary raises a new angle on the paid content debate on her blog. The concept is Microsharing: where purchased online content or data is licensed to be shared with selected others. Is it a payment model which could change not only the way we view paying for content, but sharing it as well?

In real life humans are perfectly capable, and generous enough, to purchase something of value to them and then to loan or give it to someone they care about, trust, or share an interest with.

However, with the social web this doesn’t happen.

Why the difference, if paying for stuff doesn’t stop us sharing it in real life? Perhaps the social web hasn’t yet evolved to a point where we can share like this as easily as we do in real life?

Full post on joannageary.com at this link

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Ofcom to allow product placement on UK TV

Broadcast industry regulator Ofcom has announced that product placement will be allowed in UK TV programmes from 28 February 2011. The rules for paid-for references on radio broadcasts have also been revised.

Full news release on Ofcom’s website…