The Publishers That are Getting Paid Content Right

The shift away from ad-supported content to paid content models is gaining momentum. Witness the New York Times’ focus on subscriptions and what that means for publishers. The once heavily ad-based publishing business model is now driven more by subscription goals than ad sign-ups.

They aren’t alone. The Financial Times joins the growing number of media outlets that are gaining paid readerships at record clips.

“The brightest beacons for paid content are generally perceived to be American,” notes Peter Houston, editor-at-large for TheMediaBriefing in an interview with Ciprian Borodescu.

“The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and latterly the Washington Post, dominate discussion on how to do paid content right,” Houston notes.

“Conversion from free to paid readership lies at the core of most paid content strategies,” Houston explains. “Even for publications with content that is normally locked up tight, teasing readers with free access or nominal-cost trials has become a major marketing strategy.”

And it’s working in large part thanks to the massive amount of data that helps publishers know what content converts.

“They are now looking hard at what type of content engages audiences deeply enough to get them to pay, or at least register, spending as much time analyzing and planning free-article promotions as they once spent counting page views and unique visitors,” Houston continues.

This shift, naturally, comes with changes within the organization set up. “The focus on value over volume in digital content has re-emphasized the importance of the role of content creators,” Houston explains. “But it also forced editors and journalists to reorganize around ‘always on’ digital schedules, to abandon the pre-eminence of print and to engage with the commercial propositions being built around their digital content.”

In true audience-first style, consumers want a choice when it comes to how they consume, and the new model makes that happen.

“Print readers remain a prime starting point and print-digital bundles are ubiquitous. Interest is building in week-splitting combination deals-subscribers get digital on weekdays when they are traveling to and from work, and a more leisurely print experience at the weekends.”

Too many publishers learned the hard way that an ad-supported free content model doesn’t make sense in the digital space. The one-two-three punch of ad blockingmassive digital ad fraud, and fake news is just about eliminating any chance of making an ad sales supported case.

As we’ve said before, this bodes well for the future of journalism and the magazine media industry. Indeed, it’s great to read this news after the last couple of years of native ads, brands giving away their best content, and overreliance on a future that doesn’t exist.