Will paid content ever work for publishing sites? Part 2
Following my previous post about the future of paid content I got into a discussion with two colleagues of mine arguing for and against. There have been some interesting points and ideas.
I’m still not convinced yet.
One of my colleagues argued that the current situation will lead to fewer publishing companies. Many will cease to exist at least in the digital world but very probably also in print. This effect would strengthen the remaining publishers in the respect that they will easier install pay walls without being compromised by content available for free too much. The transformation to paid content would be easier because it would be faster and the move of a few would be the move of the whole market.
Certainly there would stil be free content but there would be a divide in quality. Junk news and gossip would still be free but quality contents would be paid and people would accept that just as they accept to pay more for a newspaper like the Guardian or the New York Times and such while they could get The Sun or the Daily Mirror for much less (or the Metro for free in the London underground stations).
Sounds reasonable but I doubt that the line divide quality and junk will be the line between paid and non-paid content.
On the web there are so many freely available content publishers not coming from the print world and without its overhead. Would you consider i.e. techchrunch.com as junk? It might be special interest, granted, but in the logic of content publishers that should make it more likely to sell as paid content.
The line between those who will opt for paid content and those who won’t will be drawn where some establish successful non-paid business models and others fail.
There are content websites that actually make money at the end of the day. Without being paid for. Instead they do all kinds of advertising models CPM, CPC, CPL, CPO and the lot. Why should they opt for making the reader pay when the number of readers they get is crucial for the success of their other revenue streams?
The consequence of being all paid content would be to no longer be accessible for Google and without being indexed you would loose all search engine traffic. Your brand would almost cease to exist on the internet. Attracting more readers would have to be done like it has to be done in the old fashioned way: by advertising. Even if you offer some content for free to get some reach you would have to regard that as a marketing tool and as marketing expenses.
A more likely model for paid content would be that publishers would become partners of platforms such as Apples newsstand or Amazons kindle store or Googles play store. I can see people paying flat fees for entertainment packages on their smartphones and tablets and such and I can see publishing content to be a part of these packages to attract people to the platform. But it would be an indirect payment.
Paid content – in the current business discussions – is a pay per use or pay per brand subscription model. The above would be a bundled offer of all kinds of entertainment packages that would include news and magazine content. Publishers would get a share of it just as well as some gaming companies and others while the user would never get in touch directly.
Yes a content flat rate across brands and publishers and probably across different industries as well could very well happen. In fact Apple, Amazon and Google are already out there speaking to content partners about similar models.
Still the classic paid content strategy of publishers: I can’t see it happen.