There’s a bunch of news and interesting writing around the forthcoming efforts to charge for content (specifically online newspaper content). A recent study conducted by The American Press Institute and ITZ Publishing/Belden Interactive, involving 118 online interviews, finds various attitudes and strategies among the majority of news publications that are moving toward a paid model.
Here’s the top-line summary of the research from Media Buyer and Planner:
- 58% of publishers said they are considering charging for content, but 49% said they have no timetable in mind for how that will play out.
- 12% said they plan to charge for content by the end of the year, 18% said they will do so in the first quarter of 2010, and 10% said they would begin charging by the beginning of next summer
- 10% currently charge for some portion of the web content
The models under consideration:
- 38% say they will limit full access to stories to monthly subscribers
- 28% say they will likely offer monthly subscriptions as well as micropayments for individual articles
- 15% expect to offer monthly subscriptions, micropayments, and “day passes”
- 19% expect news articles to remain free but that they will produce content specifically for the website which would be behind a pay wall
- 9% say they may adopt a system which would make visitors pay separately for each story they want to read.
What these charts above say is the following:
- The mostly likely strategy is a free homepage with headlines and content snippets. Full article access would be paid
- Single article micropayments is the top monetization strategy
- Top objectives of paid strategy: 1) preserving print circulation, 2) new revenues
Allan Mutter focuses in on the contradictions and hidden pessimism of the report:
A bare 51% of the newspaper publishers in the United States believe they can charge successfully for access to their interactive content, according to a survey released today. The other 49% of publishers either fear that pay walls will fail or just aren’t sure.
The survey, which was conducted for the latest in the series of industry conferences this year studyng how to monetize the valuable content most newspapers give away for free, shows that publishers who are worried about charging for content have good reason to be concerned.
A great deal of the public discussion around pay walls in the newspaper industry, I believe, is to condition the public regarding the idea that they’ll soon have to pay for online news content. Most people will be reluctant to pay for what they have been able to receive for free but there might be success in holding on to print subscribers this way. If everyone goes to paid simultaneously it will have a greater chance of success.
PaidContent summarizes results from some of the newspaper sites that currently charge for online access. The conclusion is that they’re mediocre performers and subscriptions have been generally lackluster.
Online newspapers are going to have to balance circulation and ad sales because ad revenues will take a hit from a pay wall strategy like this. The NY Times abandoned TimesSelect because it calculated it could make more money from ads than subscriptions.
What would you do if you were running a traditional news organization? Would you go to a paid strategy? How would you execute?