Show me the Money! Making 'pay-walls' pay
This article was produced for Figaro Digital magazine January 2009 issue.
With media owners experiencing falling ad revenues and a decline in traditional distribution channels, how to monetise online content remains the key challenge to be faced
The free vs. paid debate rumbles on. How do you charge for your content when so much is freely available online? How much should you give away?
The discussion has also been reignited recently by Rupert Murdoch’s threat to remove all News Corp content from Google’s index and Microsoft reportedly reaching out to ‘big online publishers’ to pull their content from Google and take up ‘premium positions’ on Bing. (FT.com, http://bit.ly/7e2oak). Focusing on protecting news content specifically is perhaps missing the point. Access to news can remain free but monetising websites should be about justifying a premium for delivering a range of related content resources, analysis, premium features, and services that add value. Equally, increased audience engagement and user profiling can in turn facilitate more targeted personalized content delivery, sponsorship, and advertising, driving further revenue generation.
Media owners can package up and deliver a range of content assets and clear opportunities exist for delivering a balance of free and premium content and leveraging a mix of revenue streams. There is money to be made from targeted ‘narrowcast’ delivery of rich media, interactive services, and community membership features. Online video for example is a burgeoning space with YouTube already monetising more than 1bn video views a week. What’s more, within display, spend on video ads has increased by 195% year on year.
A glut of free content of poor quality makes paid credible information even more desirable. There is also money to be made in fulfilling the role of content curator, engaging visitors through providing context and analysis, offering premium related features, and becoming a trusted filter.
Getting all content assets online, freeing up the ‘archive’, providing enough of an abstract or teaser for premium content, or using Google’s ‘first click free’, offering free trials with strong calls-to-action, and automated e-mail efforts, encourages new visitors to engage with the site. Increased time on site drives up CPM, subscriptions, cross and up-sell revenue.
An even more rewarding user experience can be provided through personalising targeted content delivery and marketing according to audience intelligence derived from both explicit profile settings as well as implicit user behavioural data gathered on page views, downloads, site searches etc… Increasingly it is possible to manage this in an automated way with emerging technology standards such as Attention Profiling Mark-up Language (APML, http://bit.ly/2NHAQS), used by the likes of Last.fm to align recommendations according to the user’s musical taste profile, and that of their network, which is automatically built up and refined by what they listen to. This profile data is made publicly available and leads us to consider wider implications for targeted and behavioural advertising.
Circulating automated reports on site user behaviour to the appropriate stakeholders, such as active and passive trial reports to sales teams, or for automated direct marketing activity, also helps to maximise conversions and revenue from cross and up-sales.
Through effective content management, enabling the delivery of content in context as well as providing a targeted and personalised user experience guided by audience intelligence, publishers can connect their audience to the right information at the right time on the correct device and add real value. The added context, analysis, and related features, drive audience engagement, conversion, and support any successful online publishing business model.
Adopting more sophisticated and flexible payment models also helps maximise the potential to monetise content. Delivering a mix of free and paid content and offering a range of trial, subscription, and ‘micropayment’ or ‘pay-per-view’ options to suit different user types at different times.
There is no silver bullet solution for content producers to make money online but there are plenty of opportunities to experiment and in order to keep pace you have to have the systems in place to be adaptable, embrace change and follow iterative website development.
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