How Do You Monetise Digital News Content?
Last August, I blogged about a future where content providers, such as newspapers and magazines, will eventually start releasing their own devices as a means to deliver digital content and to maintain or boost subscription levels.
In light of this, the big news this week in Australia has been Fairfax’s decision to cut 1900 staff from its flagship mastheads The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and change its print editions from broadsheet to ‘compact’ (AKA ‘tabloid’). In its announcement to the ASX, Fairfax also included a copy of its strategy presentation to investors in which it stated that two of its strategic initiatives are the “introduction of digital subscriptions for Metro” – in otherwords, paywalls for its metropolitan news websites – and a “digital-first editorial policy”. Fairfax is flagging its digital future.
However, I see paywalls as only an interim step while newspapers try to work out a better way to monetise their digital content. All I can see a paywall doing is sending online readership levels southward and, with diminishing readership for Fairfax’s print properties, I can’t see it as a sustainable model, especially when the lion’s share of revenues are generated by advertising and classifieds.
In my blog post about this last year, I discussed the rise of tablet devices (and the demise of some – like the photo I took of the HP TouchPad poster, above!), and the inevitable commoditisation of the technology to the point where the device can be ‘given away’ with a subscription to content. Add to this the rich media capability of the platform, and I can see a not-too-distant future where we will start to see newspapers offering their content as a subscription-based model on a dedicated, locked down, branded device.
Here’s what I wrote last year:
“As the price of the tablet comes down, in a couple of years, I can see the content owners themselves releasing their own tablets. Imagine a Gourmet Traveller or Vanity Fair-branded device, that gave you access to the entire back catalogue of magazine issues, plus an ongoing, paid subscription to future editions, together with some basic web and communication capabilities. On your bookshelf, instead of a stack of magazines and newspapers, you just have a short row of tablets, their titles visible on the spine, resting on a charging pad.”