Revenue models for the future of publishing

Revenue models for the future of publishing

Find the new shifts in revenue models across the publishing industry

As publishers acclimatise to the shifts and changes in online technology usage in 2021, one trend stands clearer than most: Online media is shifting away from ad-sponsored content and moving to a subscription model. The audience has shown active response towards discouraging breach of their privacy in the complex storm that is advertising. Users are now ready to pay for authentic content without being bombarded with advertisements. The popular platforms like Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime, even The New York Times are all throwing their weight behind the model and reaping the benefits as early adopters. Publishers are now setting their content for subscribers who intern fund their efforts by paying specific fees.

The New York Times said that it added 2.3 million digital-only subscriptions last year.
In its fourth-quarter earnings report, The New York Times Company said 2020 was its biggest year for adding subscribers.

The jump was primarily accelerated by two events - the first being the pandemic which led people to function from within their homes and the second being the elections. Both times where the audience sought authentic information that had a large impact on their everyday life.

As audiences have shown their interest in subscriptions in exchange for truthful content, publishers have become more trusting in their subscribers.

The subscription-first strategy and the willingness to pay for quality journalism are clear indicators for a significant growth in subscriptions for the NY Times.

2020 Earnings report
2020 Earnings report

Paywalls are of varied types, most prominent and popular ones include:

Hard Paywalls:

A hard paywall typically only displays an article title and a few introductory paragraphs before prompting the reader to pay. Since the prompt to pay is rather unexpected, the user takes a while to get acclimated to the model, which may result in sudden dwindling in the number of readers. The Times of London witnessed a drop in 90% of its audience after the debut of its paywall, but it now generates over $60 million a year (Data as of November 2018)

Metered/Dynamic Paywalls:

One of the most popular types, the metered access paywall was first introduced by the Financial Times and later successfully adopted by the New York Times and hundreds of newspapers around the world. It allows a certain number of free articles every month, after which the readers are nudged to pay.

While there is enough brouhaha on why content publishers must shift to revenue models, it is imperative that one is also aware of the drawbacks. One of the main concerns is ensuring novelty in content created. Over a period of time, customers get bogged down due to monotonous content, resulting in discontinuation of the subscription models. Secondly, the payment of lump sum for an annual subscription is something most consumers are not willing to commit to.

This problem led to the steady growth of yet another subscription model: The Micropayments Method. As the name suggests, a micropayment is a financial transaction involving a very small sum of money. The ambush here is finding an amount that seems small enough to be practically imperceptible to the reader, but, to the organisation, lots and lots of such very small sums of money equals a much larger sum of money.

A success story of Schibsted, which collected and analyzed reader behaviour data to understand what type of readers would respond positively to subscription offers. Registered users on Facebook were targeted and they received a 22% increase in successful subscriptions. Data of usage thus plays a pivotal role in understanding consumer patterns, and these patterns help establish patterns and strategise content marketing and publishing to suit changing demands.

The highest selling point of paywalls is the fact that they can be customized, publishers can choose to experiment with one or more paywalls simultaneously. Interestingly, for publishers who do not want to experiment with paywalls, there are other options where the publisher is more than just a content publisher. Publishers can generate income through the age-old hack of advertisements, the only change here is to offer the old wine in a new bottle. For example, publishers can be:

  • Emotional advertisers: this entails studying and mapping reader emotions with products, and advertising them.

  • Brand Licensors: publishers can liaise with specific brands and can make offers that works in the best interest of the two parties. For instance, on subscribing content for a year, the customers are also given a compliment of discount or free vouchers from the brand the publishers endorse.

  • Philanthropists: encouraging customers to contribute to philanthropic causes, nudge towards this is by letting customers know what stake they have in the projects they are contributing towards.

To read further on this refer Innovations in News Media

All said, the two focal points of all publishers are: content and consumers. Given the affirming trends, it is only fair and justifiably so, that content publishers move from redundant subscription models and mere advertisements and think out of the box and renovate at the drop of a hat, because consumers are evolving each day and thus so must publishers.

Learn how Accesstype supports publishers to implement new revenue opportunities to their business models.