Today, people pay for everything from games to music to movies.

Evidence suggests paid subscriptions must offer unique value and quality to thrive. How will tomorrow’s publishing payment models play out?

REUTERS/Chris Helgren

By Giles Crosse |  Aug 01, 2019

 

In Part Three of Reuters’ monetization exploration, we examine how media is learning from other businesses that offer added value exchange to help subscriptions shine.

If you missed it, we recommend you discover Part Two before reading further.

While investigating Google News Initiative’s (GNI) subscription lab partnership, we gained valuable monetization insights from Jed Williams, Local Media Association (LMA) and Ben Monnie, director, Google News & Publishing Partnership Solutions.

Here, Jed Williams begins, with commentary on today’s media monetization challenges.

Are readers averse to newer payment models?

“There’s growing research and market evidence that suggests consumers will pay for high-quality content and experiences. However, the product must be truly unique and differentiated.

“Think of this as a value exchange. Consumers seek information, entertainment, utility, access, empowerment and more. These are some of their critical ‘jobs to be done.’ It’s important that media companies use this ‘jobs to be done’ framework as a lens to view their customer relationships.

“If they can meet audiences where they are, with a delightful experience that helps them complete one or more critical jobs, and in a way they can’t easily replicate elsewhere, then publishers absolutely have a right to win in this space.”

Ben Monnie also argues the evidence seems to suggest people are willing to pay for subscriptions – when they feel they get value and quality.

“In order to get people to pay for any product, they have to feel it’s worth paying for and that they are getting something they can’t get elsewhere.

“It’s clear that the media is learning from other businesses in how to offer value add, with things like early access to content, access to reporters via special events, and the ability to buy tickets before general release.

He explains that Google views its subscription lab as a powerful learning example.

“As we help participating publishers navigate the strategic and technical decisions they must make to optimize and scale their subscriptions businesses, we hope to apply those learnings to Subscribe With Google and all of the Google tools that publishers draw upon, so that they are more powerful and easier to use, even for smaller publishers.”

In addition to subscriptions, dynamic paywalls are a top issue in monetization boardrooms. Jed comments on the future, the potency and the challenges of these approaches.

“Dynamic paywalls show strong promise. They are only as strong as the data underlying them, however.

“The more data that publishers have about their readers, and the more granularly they can segment that data to better understand behaviors, wants and needs among specific audiences, the more effectively they can tailor dynamic paywall experiences to the characteristics of each customer type.

“Readers simply can’t be treated the same. Publishers who can personalize content and product experiences based on consumer attributes give themselves the strongest opportunity to build deeper audience relationships.”

Jed reveals dynamic paywalls are only one of many emerging models being tested in the market.

“Membership programs, exclusive premium content, vertical niches, micropayments and more all show promise in different ways.”

Ben is candid on the value of dynamic walls, saying there is no doubt they are a smart way to go.

“We have seen publications open up their content for free during a big national story. That’s a smart business move because it could mean introducing your content to people who might not have bothered with it in the past.

“Dynamic paywalls give you the flexibility to tailor your offering for different users. If this is a person who hardly ever comes to your site versus frequent visitors, you might not really care about the first, but the person who comes back time and again is the person you want to turn into a subscriber.

“So if they like your content you might want to offer them less free articles; they clearly like your content already. We also know though that people like to try before they buy, you would never pay for a suit without trying it on to see if it fits, so people are unlikely to pay for content for the same reason.

He concludes by saying helping publishers, especially the smaller ones who don’t have an army of strategists and data scientists at their disposal, to thoughtfully design and execute tests like dynamic meter heights is a key component of the subs lab.

What has our monetization exploration proven?

Firstly, it’s clear there’s massive urgency on monetizing media. Legacy models aren’t fit for today’s markets and quality journalism must find a path to pay its own way.

Experts in the field suggest this path will likely stem from a combination of subscriptions systems and dynamic paywalls. Deeply analysing customer metrics and adapting these systems to individuals will be essential.

Modern media is a tough thing to finance successfully. Yet our investigation has shown the landscape is also compelling, with vast opportunities available for publishers offering something unique, complemented by bespoke, intelligent models that help consumers pay as they choose.

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