Publishers, Paywalls & Profit

With debate continuing about publications including the FT, The Times and the International Herald Tribune introducing content paywalls, the publishing industry is rightly considering the future of both traditional and evolutionary business models. For background, take a look at the solid overview by the BBC and Suzanne Bearne’s sensible take on the issue for New Media Age.

Driving eyeballs to adverts via free content certainly worked while banner advertising was relatively new and by that nature, engaging. The system is now fundamentally flawed as we know – put simply the novelty of clicking on a banner presented on a web page is long since gone and banner fatigue can mean people simply block them from their minds and vision.

There can be no doubt that the publishing world is shifting on its axis but the emergence of paywalls creates a chasm between content and reader that all can’t or won’t traverse across. We believe there are many ways in which publishers and media owners of every size and style can find new ways to generate profit – ones that can also strengthen rather than weaken the overall user experience.

The Magnetise Group’s TopFox white label competition platform is a good example. Already used by Northern & Shell, Maxim and Loot, this solution provides income for publishers from leads generated due to readers entries to sponsored competitions.

Evolving the product further due to demand, the team identified and developed a way to also support print publications by adding an SMS ‘text to win’ element to the platform. This has trialled successfully with Loot and is now incorporated into the core TopFox product.

Other examples we’ve seen recently that support both publisher and reader, provide additional revenue generation capabilities – and are downright innovative - include:

  • The Random Guardian application – this provides deeper reach into content, which in turn creates new advertising real estate from existing content.
  • The FT’s upcoming Foursquare partnership, well covered by Econsultancy, where ‘mayors’ of certain locations will be rewarded with free, time-limited premium subscriptions (which, while strictly paywall-based, shows how partnerships can be created to drive engagement, revenue and readers).
  • Skimlinks' new SkimKit desktop app, which allows publishers to search for and convert direct links in editorial copy into revenue-generating affiliate links.
  • Finally, we couldn’t resist adding this link for those with a little time and curiosity – a superb ‘paywall game’ created by Niemen Labs which provides both a humorous and informative approach to the topic.

As always, we’re interested in knowing what you think too. Will the publishing industry evolve and innovate to maintain profitability? Will the paywall system work in the long term? Have you see further examples of ways publishers can generate profit from their content and readers? Do let us know in the comments below....

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