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How publishers are monetising the 95% of readers that won’t subscribe

What's New in Publishing 07 Aug 2020 07:15

Back when the World Wide Web was first being created, Tim Berners-Lee and his team were responsible for listing the error codes for when things would go wrong, such as error code 404 when a page was not found. Back then it seemed logical that it would be common to require payment for digital content, so they also created error 402: payment required. Nearly 30 years have passed since then and it seems we have only just recently made progress in convincing people to pay for digital content.

Some specific markets and publishers have made more progress on this front, and we’ve been helped by the growth of Netflix and Spotify, both of which accustom people to paying for digital content. This has been ever more important in recent months, as we see publishers with strong subscription models have been able to better weather the Coronavirus crisis than publishers who rely heavily on advertising revenue. Still, research finds that only about 5% of a publisher’s digital audience will pay for a full subscription, so how can publishers monetize the other 95%?

What distinguishes this model from a micropayment model is that even while the text proposes a €1 contribution, when I click to donate, the selected option is a recurring monthly donation of €10. This makes sense, if I’m already committed to donating, then I’m likely to also commit to donate on a regular basis. While a micropayment model would have a required payment per article, The Guardian instead encourages readers to donate whatever makes sense for their own circumstances.

Le Figaro has done something similar, with their experiment taking the shape of articles becoming progressively blurrier as adblocking users read through the website. By the fourth page, the content was completely illegible, with a pop-up saying that the display problem could be solved by turning off the adblocker or paying for a subscription. 5% of these readers then opted to buy a subscription for an ad-free experience.

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BlendleTim BernersThe GuardianAlexander KlppingCafeyn
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