Tracking Developments in Media Industry
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These days the media business is witnessing the next structural transformation in its business model. Due to the reduction of revenues from printed media and advertisements, industry giants are looking for other ways for penetrating additional revenues. The traditional strategy of cost reduction that was previously widely applied does not seem to be sustainable. On the contrary, most key players in the media world see the biggest opportunity in the invention of new models which will contribute to the boost of revenues. To a large extent media executives agree that monetization of online content is the decision they should go for more insistently. One of the reasons why online monetization is a financially attractive way of growth is that, it has zero marginal cost, and as opposed to print media, revenue increase will not induce proportional increase in costs. Another advantage which online news have compared to the traditional printed media is that they can provide news in real time regime which is extremely important in this particular industry as “news is very costly and at the same time highly perishable product”.
So far there have been some attempts of online monetization like the Kindle and micropayments but these strategies can't balance the all the losses that the industry bears because of the before mentioned reasons.
Up to date, unfortunately for the industry's decision makers, choosing the right model for online monetization was not the only challenge they had to face. Challenges like search engines, which are generating their content and giving it out to customers for free, are not easy to overcome. In fact, bloggers and social networks like Facebook and Tweeter could be considered as posing similar risks for traditional media companies. However in chapter 4 we will see that the attempts of transforming these risk bearing factors into opportunity and getting some kind of revenues from them has started, which logically should lead us to some type of “business to business” model which will become beneficial for both parts.
In this thesis, because of different reasons I will not claim to have found the ideal model for content monetization, but rather will present several alternative models for monetizing online media content, and what's more important, will discuss the most successful models employed thus far which are applied by leading players in the industry. I will compare their features to each other, analyze their advantages and disadvantages. I will also look empirical data of results of each model to give the reader a better sense of each model's financial success and the importance of online content in their business, to have better understanding what role content monetization might mean for these news providers. Besides I will help the reader to have knowledge about the obstacles which should be taken in consideration by stakeholders, if they want to find the best match pay model for their news web-site.
Throughout its history the media business, which is one of the most dynamic and fast-developing industries, has passed through many development cycles, each prone to tremendous changes in terms of strategy, structure and model it operated with. The reasons of these changes in different times were different processes taking place in parallel, e.g. advances of post-delivery system, facilitating transportation and logistics around the world, various technological innovations etc. However, without any doubt, the emergence of the Internet and the subsequent development of digital media is the greatest change of at least last two decades. It has once again revolutionized the whole industry dramatically, more than any previous development.
Currently we are witnessing a transformation process which might become a ground for the conceptual change of the whole media industry. “Due to the reduction of revenues from print media (one of the reasons of this is decreased circulation of print newspapers, Exhibit 1) and online advertisements, industry giants have started to explore new ways to restructure their portfolios of income, and how to make their readers pay for the information they get online”. The latest financial crisis played a role in accelerating this process. The downturn of revenues pushed the media companies to sharpen cost cuttings first of all indicated by the massive layoffs of the staff. However as many industry experts like freelance photojournalist Mike Fox believes, massive layoffs itself is not a sustainable strategy for the future. The same view is shared by management consulting firm Booz & Company in their research about the media industry. They admit that cost cutting is an important tool for managers, but in order to stay capable of growing in the long run, companies can't focus only on the expenditures side of their income statement.
Media executives are still optimistic about the future. As the survey in the same research from Booz & Company shows, “most of the respondents (nearly 70%) believe that their companies are financially healthy. The which even higher to 80 percent when it comes to the opinion of integrated players (Exhibits 2), and surprisingly just one forth of the surveyed executives expected they would meet the end of recession with a deteriorated situation (Exhibit 3). Moreover, more than half of media executives (57%) believe that they still hold the wheels to control situation despite financial crisis and think that with structural trends developing in the industry they can outperform the negative results of economic downturn. Print executives are even more optimistic, this opinion is shared by 67 percent of them”. Booz & Co sees the future of media companies in their ability to identify the markets where they can compete successfully and the business models which will help them to do so.
In the June of 2009, at the Cable Show in Washington D.C, American News Corp's owner Rupert Murdoch gave a speech, which also covered the current challenges of media industry, where he specifically underlined the inevitable need of content monetization. He underlined that times when people where reading news online for free should be over, and thus gave a hint to the whole industry that the process of “online content monetization” is not only non-reversible process, but indeed it should accelerate whether somebody likes it or not. Murdoch mentioned that only online ads cannot cover media companies' costs and named New York Times, as a vivid example of that. NYT has one of the most popular U.S newspaper websites, but still their online ad revenues are not sufficient for cost coverage.
The signal form the industry guru was correctly understood by other giant players of media world and many of them like Axel Springer and New York Times already second time, started thinking how to charge their readers for online news in the way not to harm online traffic and ad revenues. Finding the balance among these two will be the biggest challenge for the “followers of the trend”. In the process of monetizing online media choosing the right type of model which will fit to one or another news provider's overall strategy and values is a big deal of question.
Currently most news online is free, but there are some existing newspapers successfully charging their readers at least for the part of the information they provide to them.
1 shows the increased consumer spending (black curve) and penetration (grey curve) in online content. The research conducted by Online Publishers Association shows the same trend, that the money spent by consumers on online content in United States increase from 1.31 billion USD in 2002 to 1.78 billion USD in 2004, which meant annual growth rate of 17%. However this growth occurred in the entertainment area such as adult material, music, gaming and sports.
Currently, among them most successful in terms of revenues generated from online media content, are American The Wall Street Journal and the British Financial Times. Both of these newspapers are providing financial news and are most direct competitors of each other. Finance is one of those few areas which experts consider possible to monetize.
The Booz & Co research mentioned before makes focus on prior experiments of publishers who tried to monetize content and boost sales with which such an innovative tools as Kindle (Exhibit 4) sales, multi-title subscriptions and micropayments are, but as the results show these methods can't regain all the revenues lost which the media industry faced in the last two years. It also shows that inevitable steps are needed from the whole industry to look for new business models and as the survey in the same research shows, media executives expect most increase of revenues from the innovations in the digital media, from the new innovative models. (Exhibit 5).
Expectations towards online monetization is a great, at least from the side of news providers, however the way on which they will have to go does not seem smooth and easy. There are various challenges monetizing volunteers will have to deal with; on the one hand there is a problem of search engines and bloggers “stealing” news from their web sites and offering them to readers on aggregate web-sites, and on the other hand there is a psychology of people and understanding their personal motivations, what would make them to pay money in online news. Furthermore, it will not be easy to make people pay for the information which they were used to get for free previously.
However despite all challenges and obstacles which is expected for industry players, Booz & Co concludes that process of media digitization is on its way and nothing can stop it. Mathias Döphner comes up with same opinion: “I do not share this kind of pessimism that content business is dying. The opposite is right. That's the tremendous opportunity through the digitization.”
One more factor which theoretically should give more hope to media magnates is psychological: as various studies about personality drivers during online purchase show, the experience of using internet and reading news online are positively correlated with purchase intention. Once the usage of internet and reading news online is a growing tendency in current reality, and the age of internet usage is also shifting fast, we can say that time works on media companies.
In this research I will analyse existing online paying models which successfully operate and give the hope to industry players for the “brighter” future in that prospect.
2. Review of search methodology
The aim of this thesis is to find out the features of existing paid models in online news which are already operating successfully. I will also try to measure their effectiveness/importance by various criteria, both objective such as existing financial and quantitative data, and also more partly-objective, such as different expert opinions.
The research will be developed in three main parts:
- Review of types of content which can be monetized, where people show some willingness to pay money (or are already paying)
- As related to the previous chapter, analysis of the personality drivers and its importance while consumers conduct online purchase
- Analysis of existing successful models, their features and their effectiveness in terms of empirical results
For the sake of development of this three-pillar structure, the information will be obtained through various sources such as existing literature - researches, articles, blogs, expert opinions and the consulting project ran by me and my classmates during our practice project.
2.1. Sources for identifying online-chargeable content and consumers personality drivers
The biggest contribution for the author in understanding of this issue were insights from consulting project workshop conducted by the ESMT Practice Project of which the author was a team member in the late 2009. During this project, besides analyzing already available literature regarding topic, the team interviewed different kind of experts and also ran a representative survey among 300 German online readers to understand the areas where customers showed some willingness to pay. According to the results, there are not many areas which can be monetized, but only:
- Deeper analysis of specific articles as an addition to the more general one
- Old archives; plus specific interest areas of some readers
- Local news
- Online sports events
The point is almost completely shared by Mathias Döphner, the CEO of German media company Axel Springer, who held a discussion around the topic at Monaco Media Forum 2009: “There are not many areas where people are willing to pay money: 1) This is finance, which is related to power; 2) Plus sports or games 3) Regional environments, people around you; 4) And then we are coming to two existential areas: sex and crime, or love and death. “
“These are areas where people are generally interested in and why should that change in digital business?” - asks Döphner rhetoric question.
The CEO of Axel Springer also commented the fact that currently most news online is free and called this fact a “structural mistake” which has to be corrected step by step. According to Döphner there is not need of revolution, once most appropriate rules and procedures in legislation already exist. They just need some moderation and then execution. Continuing on the issue Döphner summed up with the hope that in the long run, for hundreds of years, people are willing to pay for things they are interested in. “Commodity news will be for free, but special information, added value services, exclusive information should be charged”.
Currently, there are already obvious movements in the industry towards fixing the “structural mistakes” Mr Döphner talked about. This will be discussed more detailed in chapter 3.2, named “challenges”.
2.2. Personality drivers of consumers to purchase online
Understanding and analyzing consumer drivers while conducting online purchase, is critical for building prominent, profitable business model. However until today there is no perfect study in the area which could claim on being perfect in identifying and analyzing of all motivators which make consumers to pay money online, and what's more important, all researchers would agree on that claim of this study.
One of the best researches in this field conducted by Wang et al claims that the main factors which affect consumers' willingness to pay money online and are positively correlated with the one, are consumers' perceived convenience, essentiality, added-value and service quality. However another research on the same topic e.g. from Choi, Lee and Soriano focuses on following factors: perceived consequences after purchase of product, easiness of use of internet, social factors such as environment around person, satisfaction of the reader after purchase and existing alternative sources to get the same particular information. As we see on this example two group academics have completely different approach and beliefs towards one topic.
These two researches are clear evidence how diverse is different researchers' approaches to the issue. To all of these factors I looked also form the prospective of researches which are dedicated to analyzing a bit broader field - consumers' purchasing drivers in whole online market rather than only in online media. In these researches, some of above mentioned factors are considered to be important but others are doubted.
It's hard for someone to persist himself not to criticize some of the factors mentioned above, e.g. the word “perceived” is already very dubious and at the same time very subjective, however very important one. As Barkhi, Belanger and Hocks claim in their “model of the determinants of purchasing from virtual stores”, the notion perceived/perception has already enormous importance itself, as it defines consumer's later attitude towards whole online purchase procedure.
To continue analysis, factor such as social community is neglected in Bosnjiak's research, where he referring to Senecal's 2005 research claims that recommendation's made from close community make decision making process more complex but it does not affect final choice of consumer.
Regarding service-quality we can say that, the word quality itself already induces some confusion because it's pretty subjective notion. For different people quality might mean different things. For some people service-quality might mean the urgent delivery of hottest news and the exclusivity of this information, whereas for another person the quality of service might be associated with deeper analysis of the article or the easiness of ways to pay money online.
Such an arguing can continue further, but what is more important, arguable are not only factors on which researchers build their different models, but also some general statements which are made by them. For example, the work of Wang et al claim the business model is sustainable if revenue-generating method is accepted by majority of the potential customers. However despite all the respect towards the authors and research itself, such a claim can easily become a reason of discussions, because still, the success of any model depends on the ideal proportion of ad revenues and online subscription revenues and for different newspapers the ideal conversion rate of readers to paid customers might be different. Even this research itself contradicts to its statement when brings an example of Wall Street Journal Online and Hoovers Online telling that they managed to make e-content portal profitable by only 10% of conversion rate. While conducting our consulting project, we also got results that some high circulated newspapers would make their portals profitable even by 3% conversion ratio. Further more, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, has only 0,8% conversion rate of subscribers on its niche site for hardcore Green Bay Packers fans, making revenues of 600,000 USD annually. In other words, depending on the content offered by particular newspaper, and the number and type of readers they have, the effective proportion of online content and ad revenues should be found. More analysis should be conducted to understand the price of lost customers' amount versus converted ones and the ideal balance of subscription revenues versus lost ad revenues. To this issue has dedicated his discussion Jeff Jarvis, on the blog-web BuzzMachine.
Jeff Jarvis is an American Journalist, former television critic, editor, publisher and columnist. Among the companies he has been working are: New York Daily News, San Francisco Examiner, New York Times Company, MediaGuardian - a supplement of British newspaper The Guardian. Besides he is an associate professor at the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism directing its new media program. He is also creator of weblog BuzzMachine.
Jeff Jarvis in his article about paid content published on Weblog BuzzMachine is more persuasive about the complexity of the issue and based on his vast experience highlights for the readers how many different factors should be taken in consideration for identifying one or another model for particular newspaper. For those who will catch in Jeff Jarvis' approach some “sense and consciousness” will become clear that based only on the analysis of psychological traits of people and their purchasing drivers, it will not be easy to find an ideal model, and that the issue needs rather practical approach. Findings of Jeff Jarvis will be discussed more detailed in the 5.1 chapter named “Expert opinions and Conclusions”.
Before moving to the following chapter, we should conclude the started topic and mention that there is still needed some research in the area of personal motivators for online purchase, in order we could claim by 100% confidence that we are using the best model for identifying the online paid model.
2.3. Discussed models and criteria for their comparison
Once we are analyzing the existing models, the criteria for assessment of one or another method is the time of their existence and their results shown throughout their lifetime. Besides looking at the thematic differences in the features of the models both in Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C) models, we will look at their financial results, their generated income through online sales and he dynamics in online subscription amount.
The biggest attention the author paid was to the models of Financial Times and Wall Street Journal as the most successful financial players in B2C business. In addition, the author took a look at Bloomberg and Reuters as successful players of B2B model. New York Times was an interesting case for the author because it is a case, when after first unsuccessful trial, they are going to try monetizing online content already second time. Taking in consideration their prior experience it should be important to track which model they will choose for the second attempt.
Finally, the author took a quick look at some other examples of successful and unsuccessful attempts of monetizing online content so far.
Information was gathered from reviews of their websites as well as from articles about these news-providers, and various expert opinions about their models.
3. Possible models which can help to monetize online content
Technological advancement has made most news content widely available for free online, which pushed most newspapers to give up subscription fees in the hope of getting more readers and hence by increasing traffic, get more advertisement revenues. However such movements contribute even more to the availability of free content in the web and hence induce decrease in print media circulation and advertisement revenues.
Charging for online news is very hard. The biggest risk that media companies face is loosing the visitors, because reduced traffic will induce less interest of advertisement providers on the particular site. Ads are still major source of revenues for most media companies and it will remain so in the nearest future. As Rupert Murdoch commented previously on the example of Wall Street Journal, “charging online content is not bad but still it's not a gold mine”. However, recently after presenting the idea at WSJ to impose premium paid model, Murdoch Justified their decision with telling that, in their case, ad revenues are no any more critical part in revenues and they pay more attention to subscription based revenues.
The high risk of loosing switching is easily explainable for SearchDNA founder John Straw, who admits that he himself would never pay for online content if he could get it somewhere else.
3.1. Findings from consulting project
While working on our consulting project, our group consisting from four MBA participants, I and my three classmates, identified four different types of models which could imposed during presenting the pay wall. The consulting project itself and its results is based on the basis of numerous articles and literature about previous experience, industry expert interviews and representative survey conducted among 299 German media readers. In column 1, table 1 explains four different pay-wall models which are possible to impose on online content in different situation, and column 2 explains the situations in which these different models would have chance to work “keeping other conditions constant”.
Table 1: Types of models applicable in monetized online media
Types of Possible Models
Situation explaining the feasibility of model
Locking down the whole content
Really unique content
Locking down selected articles
Unique content should be part of broader content
Limiting the number of customers
Very high overall quality, breadth of content offering
Locking down the niche articles
Want to monetize only highly specific “hidden” articles
Source: consulting PP final draft
It's upon news providers which type of model they will choose to match with the content they want to lock down. As we already discussed, there are few things which would motivate people to pay money online for, in other words online readers show at least some willingness to pay in following areas:
* Deeper analysis of specific articles as an addition to the more general one
* Old archives; plus specific interest areas of some readers
* Local news
* Online sports events
Here we can provide some examples of successfully using some of these methods of pay-wall. The method of locking down selected articles is used by Wall Street Journal. In this case most daily news including political are considered as commodity information and they are given out for free, however if some specific interest area, e.g. finance, have deeper expert analysis, which you can't meet in other newspapers, the articles are locked down in this case. The method of limiting the number f articles is successfully used by Financial Times. New York Times decided to go on the same way from 2011. A good example of locking down niche content is Milwaukee Journal - Sentinel and its Packer Insider: The journal locks down specific information, deep content about football club Green Bay Packers, for its fans. In deep content in this case is counted e.g. chat sessions with players. As the same Practice project showed, locking down whole content, “keeping other conditions equal”, is possible if the whole content is really unique.
Here we have also to mention that during consulting project about online content monetization, we had some more interesting insights about the factors which increase readers' willingness to pay: To our surprise content is not always the thing which might make readers to pay online: 35% of surveyed 299 German readers named following three factors as the possible motivators in increasing willingness to pay:
- Promotions/ Give-aways
- Specific additional content
As a conclusion of this chapter we should say many experts predict for the future that, free content will be used primarily as a marketing ploy: a complementary trial period is strictly used for purposes of enticing customers to subscribe to a service or buy a product online. (Wang et al). Alternatively some sites attract customers by offering a limited amount of free content. They then hope to convince their customers to shift to a variety of “premium”, fee-based content (Outing 2002). (Wang et al)
Innovative online ways of distributing news like news aggregate sites, blogs, social networks (Facebook, Tweeter, etc.) which are free to access, become more and more of a threat for media companies, because news is a costly product to produce, as well as it its distribution in traditional way. But distribution of news in online has zero marginal cost, as it takes nothing to the person to copy and paste a particular article or link it to the other page (Exhibit 6).
Traditional media companies demand from these innovative producers of news “fair ways of playing”, which means either they should produce their own information or they should pay to original producers some fees for utilizing their articles. In his interview, Mathias Döphner mentioned that they are not demanding banning of these alternative sources. “We understand that future is mixed model, mutual existence of both of us declared Döphner. We also do not request something new and innovative. We just need fairness, respecting each other, respecting copyright rules, paying royalties as it is supposed to be done and for of all this playing rules are already there, we just need to make them better and then follow to”.
Rupert Murdoch went even further and called search engine Google stealers, as they take others' information without permission and put it on their pages. Regarding this phenomenon, Axel Springer CEO Döphner told very appropriate example to the Huffington Post co-founder. “If you want to give others your beer for free, please brew your own beer and then you are welcomed to do so, but please stop taking my costly beer and then giving it to others for free”.
Recently there is a clear evidence of starting changes in this regard: Google agreed with several news-provider companies to restrict their articles readerships through Google to maximum amount of five. Another web-site YouTube started removing from their site unlicensed videos. In other words, Mathias Döphner's prediction that the current reality would start changing step by step has obviously started to become true. Thus in nearest future we should anticipate emergence of new pay-models, when media companies will have to think, how to share the cake with news aggregate web-sites, social networks and bloggers. We are witnessing enormous changes not only because of monetization, but because of establishment new type of relationships between industry participants, which ideally should bring in new opportunities. (Exhibit 9)
4. Existing paying models, analysis
Studies claim that in order managers found ideal subscription business model for online monetization they need to understand their subscribers' personality drivers, their perceptions and attitudes, what makes them purchase news online? In fact there is not breadth of information about consumers personality drivers, indeed the researchers actively continue investigating this area and thus provide us with new and new models. Non-existence of ideal model in this area is one of the reasons why we can't predict ideal online pay model. The other reasons are “closer” to business.
Referring to Jeff Jarvis' argumentation in his article about paid content models, there are plenty of criteria which determine the success of one or another model. Once these criteria are individual and very specific for each newspaper, no one can/should claim yet, on identifying one general ideal model which will fit to all news-providers.
As director of Association of online publishers, Lee Baker commented in News Media, half of their members already charge for online content and another 19% is going to do so in the nearest 12 months. “Paid content modelling is important to our members”, continues Mr. Baker. “Our members are trying to penetrate new areas such as mobile apps. More than half of them express desire to create paid-for apps”.
Despite we can't claim on building the ideal model as a proxy for the future, we can cover the most successful news providers and their models which are currently successfully used, both in B2C and B2B business.
4.1. Financial Times VS The Wall Street Journal
Currently the most distributed B2C pay models in online media are two: one is Financial Times' way - restricting the definite amount of free articles for subscribers and then charge the readers if they exceed this amount, and another is Wall Street Journal's way - offering readers only one or two paragraph for reading and making available the rest only for subscribers.
To compare these two models in more details let's take a more detailed look at the ways which they are used by their most successful implementers. Of course there is some room for deviations and different news providers can apply to some minor changes, e.g. in the amount of text which should be given out for free, but the concept remains the same.
Table 2 below shows clear distinctions between the features of these two models in the case of FT and WSJ. The essence of difference of these two models is the amount of information provided for free and the ways how it is done:
- The Wall Street Journal - makes clear distinction between commodity and high-value content. The so called “commodity” news is available for everyone, which is usually most daily news such as politics. For visual purposes, a “key” is drawn at the label of high-value articles, typically finance/business (Exhibit 8), which means it's closed for non-subscribers. In this case as we already mentioned before, reader can see only one or two paragraphs of the article and the rest is preserved for subscribers. Every unique reader (unique computer/unique ID) can see only one such an article as a sample. Such a model gives the media company capability to earn some money from subscription and also retain some traffic which on its side will contribute to ad revenues. Recently WSJ has announced that they are going to present premium wall for even deeper analysis and some specific information charging for it even more (please see the deeper review in chapter 4.1.2)
- Financial Times - has four types of readership. Anyone without subscription can read two articles per month on the web-site for free, also some archives with three years data. After a free subscription readers get chance to read ten articles for free per month. The articles could be received per email also. Besides five years archives can be viewed by subscribers. In case of becoming paid “standard” subscriber, readers receive reach on unlimited number of articles. After becoming a “premium” subscriber, readers get access to FT Mobile News Reader. (Exhibit 7)
4.1.1. Financial Times
Financial Times is a British international business newspaper founded on January 9, 1988. In 1957 FT was bought by Pearson Group. The newspaper specialises in financial and business news and its main competitor is American The Wall Street Journal. Initially FT described itself as “the honest financier and respectable broker”. Currently it's the only British newspaper having full daily reports about London Stock Exchange and other markets. Its daily circulation is over 421,000 and a worldwide readership about 1.4 million in more than 140 countries. UK circulation stands around 75,665 with 2009 year data.
In 1997 FT established the US edition (circulation in 2009 was 143,473) and in 2000 started publishing already German language Financial Times Deutschland edition with circulation of 90,000 in 2003. In 1998 FT was already first UK newspaper having sold more copies outside UK than inside. It has about 475 journalists, from which 110 are outside UK.
Simultaneously, Financial Times was actively innovating through its products and services: “In October 2006 they launched FT Alphaville, an internet-based daily news and commentary service for finance professionals” and on March 18, 2009 they introduced Newssift.com, a search engine focused on business news. On April 23, 2007 FT made a new innovation, “most dramatic revamp in a generation, making first page of the newspaper more content intensive, with new typeface and new labelling. For 2010 they have new projects: this year FT is planning to impose new model such as micropayments. Beside, along with USA Today, hold by Gannett, they are working on newspaper specific reading device Mountain View. They order is executing California based company - Plastic Logic.
On May 13, 1995 Financial Times group decided to go online and introduced FT.com, and in the spring of 1996, already its second generation website where they started announcing stock prices. The site contributed with online advertisements as its source of revenue. In the period of 1997-2000 after undergoing several moderations, the site started successfully operating on subscriptions.
Since 2007 FT.com started charging online for its content. In 2008 they diversified their pay-model for different type of readership and offered clients several alternatives differentiating them as registered users, paying subscribers and premium subscribers (Exhibit 7). In 2008 it had already more than 1,2 million registered users and 110,000 paying subscribers. In 2009 paying subscription reached 126,000. In 2008FT.com attracted 7.1 million unique users, generating almost 72 million page views and attracting over 1 million registered users. Page Views are critically important for traffic and ad revenues.
Worldwide circulation in 2008 was approximately 435,000, compared to 418,000 of previous year, increased by 18%. In 2008 digital services accounted for 67% of FT group revenues up from 28% in 2000. On the contrary revenues accounted only 25% down from 52% in 2000 (Exhibit 10). In 2009 FT's publishing revenues were reduced by 47%, down to 39 million GBP, making it only 19% of total income. Pearson explains this with the tough market conditions for advertising. However the “losses” from ad revenues were partly reimbursed by increased online content revenues. Regarding the latest one, Pearson believes that, despite increased share of online content in the revenue portfolio, ad revenues still will remain important part for their income. Moreover, as paid subscribers amount was also significant in 2009 - about 126,000, this is an opportunity for media companies to show these people targeted ads.
Recently Financial Times announced that it is adding new service to its 99 GBP subscription, reportspaidContent, which will contribute to enhancement of its premium offering. It will be a monthly editor's newsletter from Financial Times editor Lionel Barber, “highlighting big themes for the month ahead and providing updates and insights on new site features”.
The graph below shows dynamic of changes in the number of print circulation, paying subscriptions and registered users in the last three years. The data is gathered from two different sources: most information is from Pearson PLC web-site but 2009 year data which is from the web-site paidcontent.org. Its an interesting fact that during these three years shown in the graph, publishing ad revenues for Financial Times declined by 3%.
4.1.2. The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal is an international daily newspaper published by Dow-Jones & Company which is owned by News Corporation. The Journal has a highest circulation rate in USA - 2,1 million per day. For comparison, USA Today's circulation is 1,9 million. The number of online subscribers was 400,000 in October 2009 against FT's 121,000. These s making WSJ most circulated in USA and also with most paid subscribed all over the world. In Europe, newspaper has circulation of 75,000.
The primarily content of the Journal consists from international business news, financial news and its issues. It is a successor of The Journal which was published by Daw Jones & Company since 1882. On July 8, 1889 it was renamed with current name. The modern shape of the newspaper was taken in the 1940th after USA started industrially expending as well as its financial institutions in New York.
Internet expansion era in the newspaper began in 1996 when they launched The Wall Street Journal Online. Since 2003 with the decision of Dow Jones, the results of print and online subscribers' data for WSJ are integrated in Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC).
Charging for online news WSJ started since 1996. As of 2008, the cost of online subscription is 119$ for those who have not subscription to the print edition. For printed subscribers, online news is free. The Wall Street Journal is a largest paid-subscription news site on the web. Online subscription consists 19% of total circulation. With my simple rough mathematic calculations, the revenue made from online subscriptions should be around 47,600.000 USD yearly.
Recently, Wall Street Journal announced that they are shifting their focus entirely on the subscription revenues and that ad revenues are no longer critical in their portfolio. On this regard, they are planning to offer some subscribers premium content, this will cost them 500 USD per month and they will get in return even deeper analysis and expert overviews of some financial topics.
The other innovative way News Corp is considering to make readers pay more money in readership is a new portable device which will enable people to read electronic versions of WSJ's daily newspapers. This tool will be like Amazon.com's Kindle and Sony Corp's Reader.
4.2. New York Times
New York Times is an interesting case for our research once it is a newspaper which decided to monetize online content already second in the last 5 years. In September 2005 times introduced TimesSelect, an online pay-wall project, however dropper their own decision exactly in two years. As recently was widely broadcasted through various sources, from 2011 NYT will go second time for online content monetization, this time with Financial Times model, giving out restricted number of articles for free and charging for the rest. NYT's case and its failure becomes more interesting if we take in consideration that they have the most visited web-site in the world - receiving 19,4 million unique visits on average throughout 2008.
Founded in 1851, New York Times covers diverse areas on its pages: News, Opinions, Business, Arts, Science, Sports, Style, and Feature. The Times has two types of newspaper, Monday- Saturday subscription and the Sunday subscription. It was one of the first newspapers to adopt the coloured photography. Currently in USA it is number three with circulation rate after WSJ and USA Today, with the daily number of 1,040,000 in the March of 2009. However at the end of the year, the result slightly deteriorated (7,3%), down to 980,000 and reducing under million first time since 1980th (Table 3).
They went online in 1996. There strong presence is the web is confirmed by the fact that 22 from top 50 USA logs are produced by nytimes.com. This can be one of the reasons why NYT decided recently to go for FT model and restrict the amount of readers, because high-quality blogs still guarantee them high traffic and hence constant ad revenues. As Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post co-founder mentioned on MMF 2009, “Readers are not satisfied any more with just sharing the information; they want to participate in discussions”. It seems that, NYT uses this factor best compared to others.
However before coming to the latest conclusion, NYT had to go through one failure already and learn on their mistake. As we mentioned before, New York Times had already such an attempt in 2005, with TimesSelect, which was enabling subscribers to exclusive online access to columnists and also the newspaper's archives. The reason of discontinuing TimesSelect was very low conversion ratio of readers, lost traffic and decreased ad revenues induced by pay-wall.
4.3. The art of locking down niche content
Printed first time on April 2, 1995, Milwaukee, Wisconsin based morning broadsheet Milwaukee Journal Sentinel successfully identified niche content which they could monetize online. For the fans of Wisconsin football team Green Bay Packers, they created Packer Insider, subscription service of JSOonline.com. The site locks down specific information, deep content about football club; it provides with analysis and comments besides daily coverage. Also chat sessions with players are often conducted.
Subscription price is 6.95$ per month. Result: main paper, Journal Sentinel has 931,000 unique visits on its site per month, whereas Packer Insider has only 7,700, but these people contribute to 600,000 USD annual revenue. The conversion rate is 0,8% without losing existing customers, thus without harming the ad revenues.
4.4. B2B models: Bloomberg and Reuters and an emerging alternative
The news and data companies Bloomberg LP and Thomson Reuters are clear evidence how information can be monetized online through B2B model. We can say that newspapers, magazines and televisions which operate with these companies play the role of distributors of the information created by Bloomberg and Reuters. Each of these two companies holds one-third of market.
Bloomberg, established in 1981 by New York former mayor Michael Bloomberg, generates main sources through its Bloomberg Terminals (Exhibit 11), which provide financial software tools such as analytics and equity trading platform, data services and news. The Terminals are set in the offices of their clients - different media companies and thus provide them most with updated online information in real time regime, as well as their analysis. Users can monitor real time financial markets data, check price quotes and send messages through its secured network.
Among 350 newspapers and magazines, Bloomberg provides with information, are The Economist, The New York Times and USA Today.
Another information providing company is Thomson Reuters which emerged in 2008 as a result of Thomson Corporation's purchase of Reuters. Initially since 1851 was founded in London as a company focused on business transmitting stock market quotations. Reuters managed to negotiate with London Stock Exchange to provide stock prices from the continental exchanges. Currently company is organised into two divisions, market divisions and professional divisions and provides to its customers some deep analysis of information and charges for that. (Exhibit 11)
Bloomberg and Reuters should become good example for blog aggregate web-sites, search engines, and social network web-sites how to establish rules of fair play in their relationship, in order original source of the information always got the reimbursement of its work.
4.5. Others successful and unsuccessful attempts in the industry
Cablevision Systems Corp (CVC.N) - plans to charge online readers for its Newsday newspaper. The newspaper which is 10th in USA with weekday daily circulation of around 377,517 and Sunday circulation of 433,894. It covers New York suburb of Long Island and primarily serves of Nassau and Suffolk people.
The Economist - English language weekly news and international affairs, with the circulation of 1,3 million copies per week, prefers to stay mostly free, advertising supported media, but to charge for its weekly magazine online. For this they are taking two steps: Charging for articles with 90 days oldness (they are already charging for 12 month old articles) and restricting its digital print edition replica accessible by only its subscribers. Currently Economist has quiet controversial model of charging: The new material from 4 GBP printed magazine go online for free, while one year old archives are charged. Web-print subscription for one year costs $126,99 while only online subscription $79,99. (paidcontent.org)
Johnston Press Scotland based Britain's biggest publisher of regional newspapers also decided to charge for online content paper. According to CEO of the company, John Fry, Johnston Press is introducing “pay-walls” on six of its group's local papers' websites: Workshop Guardian, Ripley and Heanor News, Whitby Gazette, Northumberland Gazette, Carrick Gazette and Southern Reporter. The decision which supports our finding in the previous chapters of the thesis, that local news can be monetized online (source: paidcontent.org).
Consumer Reports Online - an American monthly online magazine, which publishes reviews and comparisons consumers' products and services. Most of its content is available to paid subscribers. Since starting of online version in 1997, the service had signed up four million subscribers by the year of 2009 (source: Wikipedia). Currently it is believed to have more paid-subscribers than any other publication-based website.
Hoovers.com - an American business research company founded in 1990 went online in 1993. They run databases about foreign companies (66 million) and industries. 85 million are using its in-house editorial staff. Hoovers managed to convert at least 10% of its visitors into paid customers. The company derives most of its revenues from subscriptions sold to sales, marketing and business development professionals. Once again, Hoovers was of charging is subsidizing our claim that people are willing to pay for the specific interest areas for them.
Daily Mail & General Trust - one of the largest European media companies is actively looking for model to charge online, however they think that charging online would only be acceptable for readers in case of niche content.
New Media Age - a weekly news magazine in UK plans to subsidize its revenues on its most loyal readers and charge them for the offerings such as newsletters, access to its online archive, the best of The New York Times translated into French and access to a digital version of the newspaper available from 3am each morning. (Source: Le Figaro, February 12, 2010)
Guardian Media Group - UK based mass media, which owns The Guardian and The Observer, plans to charge for some high-value, niche content of the site as they believe that mass pay-wall will never work at the Guardian. (Source: Sub Hub, February 3, 2010)
Axel Springer - a German media company initiated a partnership with ClickandBuy, online payment provider company, to go for paid content (source: Tradingmarkets.com, February 13, 2010).
Independent News and Media - a media organization based in Dublin, Ireland, is also looking for ways, some charging structure, according to the CEO Gavin O'Really.
Telegraph Media Group - an international morning broadsheet newspaper already charges for some content such as Fantasy Football. Telegraph Fantasy Football gives subscribers opportunity to select and manage a football team in separate games in different tournaments. Besides, theweekly version of Telegraph Fantasy Football enables customers to pick a brand new team every week for the chance to win cash prizes.
The Spectator - a weekly British magazine decided to start charging for access to its online content after drop in the circulation of political weekly magazine. The publication boasts 300,000 unique weekly online users. The price considered for subscription is 67,5 GBP only to the online version without hard copy or 135 GBP both together.
Reforma - Mexican conservative newspaper already charges for entire content, but because of breadth of information on the newspaper we can only “guess” that most online readers are the same printed subscribers. The newspaper has a readership of 276,700 in Mexico City, the parent group, Grupo Reforma - 400,000.
4.5.1. Unsuccessful examples
When in 2002, The Irish Times decided to charge some content on its web-site Ireland.com, it managed to convert less than 1% of it regular visitors to become subscribers. As a result it lost banner advertising revenues. On 30 June 2008, the company lunched renewed Ireland.com as a separate lifestyle portal. The online edition of the newspaper has now different web-page, irishtimes.com. Information is free,but its archives require a subscription to view older parts in digitised form.
The L.A Times - failed to monetize its best quality product calendar-Live: a country wide opinion leader, especially in movie reviews. The fee was introduced in 2003, 4.95 USD per month. The result was that only 3% of users signed up, site visits dropped by 61%. Important journalists left. Pay wall dropped two years later.
5. Discussions and Conclusions
Before drawing my own implications from the research project, I would like to introduce some expert views and opinions which are close to the topic and I consider them reasonable to bring here. Also I will bring here new topic, paying method as an important factor affecting on consumers decision and will introduce some finding made during practice project as well as insight from academics researches.
5.1. Expert opinions
In his provocative article about paid content on weblog BuzzMachine, Jeff Jarvis makes business analysis of possible models which could be successfully implemented by one or another content provider. He looks to the issue from the point of all needed information in order to make feasible conclusion whether a particular model will operate successfully or not. Regarding success of the model, he has his own, very obvious approach and says that for any model one question should be examined. It's not about how much content will be free and how will be charged. It's about finding optimal proportion which allows you earning more money.
Finding an optimal proportion depends on many factors which are not easy to evaluate, such as: experience, pricing models, price points, bundles, subscriber/customer acquisition cost, churn, audience, other operating costs, total revenue collected, ad rate impact, data collection, audience and traffic impact, “googlejuice”, qualitative questions. Jarvis believes that without taking on consideration these factors no one can claim on finding the ideal pay model for his web-site.
- Experience - It is extremely important to take in consideration other newspapers and magazines experience, both successful and unsuccessful. Analyze the reasons of their success or failure.
- Pricing models - there are numerous different possibilities, started from subscribed based charging, continued with more individualised paying model. The way and model of charging can be also very diverse and each might affect consumer's willingness to pay.
- Price points - Besides already existing experience with various price points and sensitivity, each news provider should run its own sensitivity analysis among its customers, to understand how much and in what their customers are willing to pay online.
- Bundles - if online subscription is sold through print subscription, what percentage of revenues gets each, which one contributes another's popularity. Does the web-site boasts print version or it is the other way around, and print versions credibility defines popularity of online version?
- Subscriber/customer acquisition cost - how much marketing is spent to acquire paying customers is an important issue to take in consideration. What is the conversion ration and what were the alternative costs besides monetary one, e.g. in terms of lost customers?
- Churn - it is also very important to calculate the churn, which means understanding marketing costs of people who drop the subscription. Also to understand the duration of subscribers loyalty and cost on them throughout their lifecycle.
- Audience - Understanding approximate number if audience willing to pay you money has a vital importance. The percentage of print audience or online audience who will pay. The biggest help in this regard is experience, wither own or others.
- Other operating costs - credit-card clearance, customer service, bad debt costs.
- Total revenue collected - calculating total revenue seems an easy job as it is customers' amount times on fees, but it is also important to know the scale of revenue in prior efforts to charge.
- Ad rate impact - the authors argumentation here come from the opinion that advertising behind pay-wall is worth more because it's more targeted on specific customer. So the effectiveness of advertisements is another factor which should be taken in consideration
- Data collection - are there opportunities to sell data?
- Audience and traffic impact - this is analyzing of contradicting affects of advertisements and pay walls in terms of lost and gained audience and revenues from them
- Googlejuice - Google factor will be very important, what place they will have in whole chain, both as distribution tool and as one additional intermediary while charging, taking its stake
- Qualitative question - under this criteria, the author means finding the appropriate relevant content to monetize, that every news provider should have good understanding what has potential of monetization from their content and what no
5.1.1. Paying methods and registration process
Paying method, whether it is micropayment, PayPal or with credit card is one the aspects which might affect consumers' decision to purchase media online, thus it affects the amount of people and automatically many other criteria from Jarvis' model.
As various researches and the consulting practice project showed, paying online as well as registration process should be simple and clearly understandable, in order customer did not loose willingness to make purchase. Of course security matters are also important, but as observations show increased security efforts are not necessarily positively correlated with customers increased WTP.
5.2. My Insights
Despite some pundits' pessimism regarding the future of traditional media, I am far from the idea that online news is its substitute and that those innovations of technologies like internet will induce the death of printed media. It's obvious that traditional media has its own “loyal” customers who have constant need of reading news in traditional way besides getting them through innovative technological ways, otherwise we should have seen the death of traditional media far long ago before internet, when there was born television, because someway television is also one of the alternative ways of producing and distributing news.
Thus once we agree that innovative technological ways of distributing news are just complement products of traditional media and not substitutes, it arises question which is the best model of their mutual financial well-being. As our consulting practice project, survey of readers and experience of different newspapers showed there are four types of methods to impose pay-walls on the content:
- Locking down whole content
- Locking down selected articles
- Limiting the number of customers
- Locking down the niche articles
Regarding to this result, and taking in consideration the capabilities of new technological innovations, creative and individualised pay-models could be created. The clear evidence of this is NYT, for which the main factor which guarantees the traffic and hence high ad revenues is quality blogs. For them locking down the whole content should not make a problem of traffic.
There is no clear recipe, which method should be used to which model, but rather than more individual analysis should be done of newspapers' readers in order to understand which price, restricted amount of content and the model will give the best optimal proportion of ad revenues and online sales revenues.
Going on this method, by taking in consideration the criteria Jeff Jarvis mentioned in his work, should be more reliable and more time saving for any news provider, while choosing the model, rather than analyzing personality determinants of their clients by vast theoretical models which exist.
Also, we mentioned that we are witnessing not only content monetization, but also emergence of new models, new rules of play for industry stakeholders. In these new models, one more factors will be added to solve: how to share cake between news producers and their distributors like aggregate sites. More research is needed in that area.
Independent factors from direct content, such as qualitative blogs should be taken in consideration. NYT is a good example, how can media company guarantee itself high traffic records with complement products, which can facilitate the choice of right model, once such newspapers do not worry about loosing traffic and ad revenues, after putting the basic content behind pay-walls.
While this study provides a comparison of different paying models in online media and discusses their applicability for monetization of different type of contents, this research does not aim on suggesting the best subscription model for the future but rather than analysis already existing models and has objective to give helpful insights to stakeholders what is already successfully applied in current media business, analysis their success and gives them opportunity to look at some empirical data as an evidence of existing reality. The study also provides different credible experts' evaluations and opinions about these models, as well as their predictions of the future, which should give to the readers some basis for further analysis and idea development.
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Wang, Ye, Nguyen, Zhang, 2005. “Subscription to fee-based online services: what makes consumers pay for online content?”. Journal of electronic commerce research. 2005
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Booz & Company. “Reset the media business model. Cost reduction and growth priorities in today's media industry”, 2009
New Media Age, 2009. “Times to charge for online content form the next spring”, November, 2009
Monaco Media Forum 2009. Plenary Session: “Making News”
Video on the web: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar6pCxwtUBk
Reuters UK, December 10, 2009. “Can you charge for online content?”
Reuters U.S. April 3, 2009. “Murdoch says papers should charge on Web”
Reuters U.S. February 26, 2009. “Newsday plans to charge for online news”
FinanzNachrichten.de, November 26, 2009. “Johnston press to charge for online content-paper”
Comegys, Hannula, Väisanen, 2009. “Effects of consumer trust and risk on online purchase decision-making: comparison of Finnish and United states students”, International journal of Management, August, 2009
Järvekäinen, 2007. “Online purchase intentions: an empirical testing of a multiple-theory model”, Journal of organizational computing and electronic commerce, 2007
Responses of Media Executives
Source: Booz & Company. 2009
Responses of Media Executives
Source: Booz & Company. 2009
Amazon Kindle is a software and hardware platform developed by Amazon.com for rendering and displaying e-books and other digital media
Source: web-site wikipedia.org - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kindle
Media executives see investments in new business model as the highest priority and monetizing products as part of this strategy
Source: Booz & Company. 2009
Screen shot from Wall Street Journal website: distinction between “commodity” and high-value content clearly visible by little key drawn to subscribers' articles
 Up to date advertisers contributed 80 to 85 percent of newspapers revenues; source: Ahlers, “News consumption and new electronic media”, 2006
 Booz & Company, 2009
 In this thesis I will not focus on the synergy affect, that is derived every newspaper with having web-sites and hence building and strengthening its brand-awareness
 Monaco Media Forum, 2009. Christine Ockrent, CEO of France 24.
 Reasons are discussed through out the thesis
 One of the reasons is also constant weakening of USD in latest years as USA is one of the biggest markets for worldwide media companies; source:
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