3 paid content innovations
Paywalls don’t work for every publisher. It’s hard to make money on apps. These two industry truths are forcing publishers, and the vendors that serve them, to come up with more innovative ways to generate revenue from their audiences.
Here are three innovations that are show some promise.
Unlimited app plans
Publishers were quick to replicate the single-issue and subscription models from their print businesses for tablet editions. Now, distribution partners are pursuing ways to announce more digital-friendly pricing models designed to benefit readers and publishers alike.
Next Issue Media last month announced all-access pricing for its digital newsstand on select Android devices. PixelMags followed suit earlier this month with the introduction of AnyTime, an app-subscription service offering all-you-can-eat pricing across the 1,000 magazine titles that PixelMags delivers through its distribution platform.
AnyTime, which will be available initially for forthcoming BlackBerry 10 devices, with iOS support to follow, will let users sample magazine content with 10 minutes of free reading every month. If they want to buy, they’ll have two unlimited plan options: $9.99 a month includes a data connection and access to the full libraries of all publications in the PixelMags newsstand; $14.99 adds offline access to all content.
What’s unique about this subscription plan is that each publisher’s cut is based on how much time subscribers spend with their publications. PixelMags founder and COO Ryan Marquis offered an example:
A user with a $14.99 plan spends 100 minutes reading magazines in a given month, and spends 70 minutes of this time with one publication. That’s a $10.49 share for that publication. After the device maker and PixelMags each take their 30% cut, that’s still a net profit of $5.14 for the publisher.
That’s a big potential upside compared with a $2.99 single issue of a digital edition published through PixelMags, which would return a net of about $1.46.
PixelMags is sweetening the pot further for publishers who develop extend their digital editions beyond PDF replicas. A “rewards program” will pay 2-3x the revenue share to publishers who include interactive content in their apps, Marquis said. PixelMags’ goal: Attract bigger publishing brands to its distribution platform.
American Express made famous the phrase, “Membership has its privileges.” Publishers are discovering that membership plans are a way to give the most engaged members of a community access to premium content and other exclusive services.
Memberships are basically subscriptions with a better marketing spin. For publishers that have built loyal audiences, memberships represent a logical next step to deepen those relationships further by allowing members to pay for “privileges” such as premium content, access to editors or peers, and exclusive events.
Memberships can be offered to individuals or entire organizations. Atlantic Media’s National Journal Group has sold approximately 600 enterprise memberships into the community it launched last August. Benefits include access to all National Journal content, exclusive research, and members-only meetings.
“We want National Journal members to feel this is an organization at their service, with the information they need and in the form that they need it,” Taylor West, National Journal’scommunications director, told Folio. “Compared to the old subscription model, which faced the prospect of declining revenue, [the membership service] is a great turnaround that tells us we’re on the right path.”
Is an ad wall better than a paywall? Some publishers are using ad technology that requires users to type in a word or phrase before gaining access to premium content. The rationale is that visitors are more likely to type in a brand phrase than to pay real money for content.
DoubleRecall, for example, says its ad tool is gaining traction, especially in Europe. The startup claims its technology drives 85% engagement, vs. less than 5% engagement from a traditional paywall. The company also claims that publishers using its tool have achieved a 300% increase in average reader revenue.
While not a direct path to audience revenue, the DoubleRecall and similar technology lets publishers charge premiums to participating advertisers. Whether readers will accept the concept as an alternative to paid content remains to be seen.