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By Nick Tjaardstra, WAN-IFRA
What does selling online news have in common with selling shaving razors?
In the U.S., the Dollar Shave Club is hard to miss and simple to understand. Simply put, for a dollar a month (+ two dollars postage) they will send you a razor and regular cartridge refills. Bolstered by venture capital and a massive TV and online ad campaign, the company has gone from zero to a billion dollars in value in a few short years.
As it turns out, the offer is not as simple as it sounds: there are actually two more tempting offers on the website. You can get a better razor cartridge with four blades for $6 and even better, a crazy luxury six-blade device for $9. The classic upsell.
Back in 2009, Press+, now part of Piano Media, was the news industry equivalent of the dollar shave club. For just a few dollars a month, you could get unlimited access to your favourite U.S. news sites.
Once The New York Times adopted the meter in 2011, the concept spread like wildfire. If you were lucky, news publishers might throw in a tablet app or even a Sunday print edition. And soon almost every news outlet with a paid content offer had a similar upsell.
A year ago, after two decades of morale-sapping uncertainty about the viability of its business model, the journalism industry was feeling optimistic. Late 2014 had seen a dramatic vote of confidence in its future, as several startup digital publishers received lavish investment from both venture capitalists and large media companies.
“Big money is beginning to wash over the media landscape,” the Wall Street Journal reported in January 2015.
Reports of these developments hopefully suggested that the difficult economic puzzle of digital-age journalism had been finally solved, and that new innovations like native advertising would sweep away old notions about how journalism was done and financed. Coverage of advertising-supported new media juggernauts like BuzzFeed, Business Insider, Vice and Vox was ubiquitous.
Comparing BuzzFeed’s native advertising model to financing journalism with display ads, technology analyst Ben Thompson was almost giddy in his belief that the future of journalism had arrived. “BuzzFeed’s writers simply need to write stories that people find important enough to share; the learning that results is how they make money,” Thompson wrote. “The incentives are perfectly aligned.”
Its masthead describes it as the “Independent Voice of the South.” Others, affectionately, call it the Oddity.
Now the Otago Daily Times lives up to both labels with its decision to charge readers to use its website.
From mid-April, Dunedin’s leading newsroom will introduce a metered paywall offering between 15 and 30 free stories a month before readers have to cough up about $27 a month as a subscriber. Print subscribers already pay that figure monthly and will get the digital subscription free.
It will be the first major news publisher in New Zealand to do so, following many in the United States, Europe and Australia. And it could be in the right place, at the right time, to make it work.
By Chris Sutcliffe, The Media Briefing
The Guardian has not been agile enough to respond to the challenges faced by the publishing industry over the past few years, according to Guardian Media Group CEO David Pemsel.
Speaking at Digital Media Strategies 2016, Pemsel said that an overly narrow focus on the “big number” of its global audience masked some of the strategic issues that the Guardian was facing:
“I think all those big numbers are a proof point about how fast and innovative we’ve been in getting to digital [but] monetising anonymous reach is essentially over. To be able to parade around and say ‘we’re big’ is not good enough. We want to convert our anonymous reach into a known audience.”
That conversion of its unknown audience to a known one is a “massive opportunity”, based around a refinement and reinvention of The Guardian’s membership scheme, which Pemsel believes could make up one third of the Guardian’s overall revenue within three years.
Paid content is back in the news largely because one of the world’s largest newspaper sites recently reported losses forcing them to reconsider their online revenue model. At the same time, the American Press Institute has released a study detailing the emergence of paid digital subscriptions across the biggest 98 newspapers in the US. And with the use of ad blocking software continuing to escalate, not just on mobile, but also on desktop, paid subscriptions are again becoming the plat du jour.
Read more about what publishers are discovering in this week’s Industry Insights, available now!