Australian Newsagency Blog

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Old-school newspaper publisher subscription obsession misses revenue opportunities

Mark Fletcher
September 23rd, 2016 · 12 Comments

While I have no newspaper publishing experience, I am a consumer of news, especially on my phone, tablet and laptop.

But I don’t pay for it, I won’t pay for it. If there is a story behind a paywall that interests I wait or seek it out elsewhere – not because I am cheap but because the publisher wants me to sign up to a subscription.

The subscription model is an old media approach to a new media opportunity. It is out of date and not suited to today’s online and mobile consumer.

Screen Shot 2016-09-21 at 6.26.53 PMWhile in the UK earlier this week the Herald Sun had a story about the back room moves at Richmond Football Club. I clicked on the story and got this screen.

They wanted $10 for two months access before they would let me see the story. I love a good AFL back room story but it is not worth paying $10 to access it. That is how I saw it, a $10 fee because of this one story.

I suspect that is how plenty of people see it, especially those of us who travel overseas and want to catch up on stories back home for a short while.

Had the offer been, say, a fee for the story I would have been more interested. How much I’d pay would depend on the story. In this case, I might have paid up to 25 cents.

How much I would pay for future Herald Sun stories would depend on the trust that builds from earlier purchases. If the value is there I’d pay a few cents per article.

Imagine what would happen if publishers adopted this pay per story model. It would make the stories the thing rather than the current obsession with clickbait headlines. It would make journalism the thing as the better the journalism the better the value of the story and the more consumers would respect a masthead and the more stories they would buy. Hey they might even subscribe.

Today’s digital world is often about either free or low cost access to services and products. This is where newspaper publishers ought focus their attention – micro payments per story. The old subscription model is as old as the old paper model and ought to be discarded as the entry point for digital revenue.

Rather than pushing to lock people into long-term subscriptions, yes, two months is long-term, give is story by story access, take micro payments and get more value from each good story you publish.

This approach of a payment per story makes the journalists and editors more connected to the business model. It would make them work harder to develop content people want as they would want to be in the top grossing stories from the masthead.

I’d like to see News Corp. or Fairfax offer this pay per story approach today. I think a trial with fair pricing would produce a good result for them, their editorial staff and their advertisers. yes, I’d accept non intrusive advertising with any sort I purchase.


Category: newsagency of the future · Newspaper distribution · newspaper home delivery · Newspaper marketing · Newspapers

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jim // Sep 23, 2016 at 5:51 AM

    Dutch company Blendle works with newspaper publishers in the US using this type of model. $0.25 per story, pushed through to your inbox. Like you say, there is nothing more annoying than hitting the paywall when clicking through to a story, particulalry when going through from a social media site (which are now reportedly detracting substantially from publisher advertising revenues). With ad revenues eroding, pay per view should present itself as a very attractive option. If the alternative is to secure readers to ongoing digital subscriptions by paying premiums with the lure of an inferior tablet device (as you wrote about yesterday), then it’s time for the publishers to change things up a little.


  • 2 allan wickham // Sep 23, 2016 at 7:22 AM

    Just download the AFL app Mark, it`s great for us footy tragics. It had the Richmond story posted yesterday.


  • 3 eric // Sep 23, 2016 at 8:30 AM

    Never in my life i will pay for movies , music or news. the only subscription i have for years is pandora.


  • 4 ken // Sep 23, 2016 at 12:48 PM

    Same here eric,if they want us to go on subscription, they should pay me internet bill.


  • 5 Steve // Sep 23, 2016 at 6:00 PM

    Eric & Ken, I think you’ve just perfectly articulated why so many Journalists are unemployed, facebook is considered the worlds #1 news source even though its filters all content and clickbait is more important to news websites than genuine news.
    You get what you pay for.


  • 6 eric // Sep 24, 2016 at 12:11 AM

    Steve, before the journalists become unemployed , many newsagents are closing their shops now. Daily telegraph is not even worth to be called a newspaper at all.


  • 7 Eric // Sep 24, 2016 at 1:47 PM

    Cuddles. Internet kills alot of old businesses and ours. So why should i help contribute to them. Anyway i dont watch movies online . I will go to imax to enjoy when they have goid movies. But for news which are propaganda news . No way i will support them.


  • 8 Neil // Sep 25, 2016 at 3:55 PM

    “But I don’t pay for it, I won’t pay for it. If there is a story behind a paywall that interests I wait or seek it out elsewhere – not because I am cheap but because the publisher wants me to sign up to a subscription”
    If you’re going to go around the one off step of signing up for a subscription it’s highly likely you’ll do the same when it comes to paying per article.


  • 9 Mark Fletcher // Sep 25, 2016 at 5:06 PM

    Neil your assumptions about how I would act are wrong.


  • 10 Neil // Sep 25, 2016 at 7:24 PM

    That was more a general statement than about you specifically. It doesn’t matter how much small the amount is you’re charging, people will still get around it to read it for free, then complain about the declining quality of news.

    2 months isn’t a long term contract really… you’re going to consume news for longer than that (but you think it should be free so see any subscription as wrong)


  • 11 Paul // Sep 26, 2016 at 9:28 AM

    Part of the problem is that the news publishers are still way behind on the technology curve and haven’t awakened themselves to how news and information is monetised now days. Paywalls generally don’t work. It is a known and accepted fact in pay for services online. You monetise based on advertising tag ons which are themselves based on traffic. If the 18 year old kid who comes in and has 800K subscribers on Youtube and nets him just under $100K a year can work this out why can’t the news publishers ?


  • 12 Bruce G // Sep 26, 2016 at 1:13 PM

    Yep micropayments are the future . You want to read an article? Just a coupla clicks to pay a 3 cent micropayment for the article.Why 3 cents? Cos thats about what I reckon most articles would be worth to me.


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