Digiday has published a fascinating report into the digital challenges being confronted by The New York Times. The graphs in the report show excellent growth in digital access while at the same time showing the high cost of serving the declining and unprofitable print consumer. It’s the biggest single challenge facing newspaper companies, the reason for so many changes at Fairfax and more to come.
The biggest single challenge publishers face is how to monetise traffic to their sites and individual stories. The reason this is a challenge is because they have looked at with experience in and from the perspective of selling display ads and classified ads in the print world. Monetisation of digital content needs a completely different .NET approach. A publisher who gets this and acts should do well. A traditional pay wall is not the answer.
If I was running a publishing business I’d be pursuing multiple models at once – including following the model that is working so well for in-game purchasing as people are happy to pay a small fee to get to the next step. Let me buy a story for a few cents. Let me follow a story for a bit more. However, with so much content available freely it is hard for a publisher to have a genuine exclusive like game makers have. I’d also be investing in a Twitter like platform for trusted news – people will want that with Twitter being filled more with junk content and advertising.
Look at the MH370 story. While I would not sign up to a masthead based on the story I’d have paid for 7, 14, or 30 days of trusted coverage on this story alone.
Publishers need to come up with new entry points to paying for content – beyond the masthead.