6th March 2018

Publishers benefit from people finally paying for content

It seems that readers are becoming ever more willing to pay for content, especially online, rather than just use what is available for free. The New York Times reported that for 2017, 60% of the year’s earnings came solely from subscription revenue. CEO Mark Thompson said… “There are clear signs that our ‘subscription-first business model’ is proving to be an effective way to support broad journalistic ambitions.”

This is a trend not restricted to US publications. In the UK the Guardian acquired 800,000 regular paying supporters, providing a bigger contribution to revenue than advertising. It is also easy to understand why publishers have begun to request payment contributions from readers as the income from advertising has crashed.

Although readers might be an obvious answer to the publishing industry’s search for alternative income streams, the questions is why are readers buying it now? After almost 30 years of free digital content are millions of them now paying up?

The main driver is quality or, as many find, the lack of it. There is so much bad content that readers are finding it worth paying to access good quality content. Facebook's recent attempt to curb content volumes with it's new algorithm is a testament to how out of control the volume and quality of online content has become and many publishers are putting effort into tidying up content volume and improving quality by putting material behind paywalls, and the readers are happy to pay.

Another reason people are happy to pay to access privileged space is that the wider internet is not just crowded, but mean. A shining example of this was when The Atlantic closed its online comment section after the Editor-in-chief had had enough of the space being “hijacked by people who traffic in snark and ad hominem attacks and even racism, misogyny, homophobia, and anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish invective.” So while it cannot be guaranteed that the space behind a paywall is safe, the quality of the discussion is often more civilised as the internet trolls are not prepared to pay.

Along with this, in the current climate of "Fake News" people are prepared to pay for information they feel they can trust, and there is a recognition that publishers need customers to pay in order to produce reliable and quality content.

Written by Peter Houston, 21 February 2018, published on pubexec.com. Read full article here

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