2018 – the year of paid-content?

James Evelegh’s editorial from the November / December 2018 issue of InPublishing magazine.

By James Evelegh

2018 – the year of paid-content?

One of the big themes of the year has undoubtedly been the growing realisation that advertising revenues alone are not going to sustain publishing and that exploring the potential for reader revenues is the future.

True, publishers are getting better at articulating the contextual benefits of their premium advertising offering and are partnering with each other to offer greater scale and ease of purchasing, and social media is not without its own problems. But … even were the ad dollars to start returning, we should be careful not to make the same mistake twice – that of giving our valuable content away for free. Two exponents of the open access model – The Independent and The Guardian – are both now pursuing membership models.

Peter Houston makes the case for reader revenues very eloquently in The InPublishing Guide to Paid Content Strategies (copies still available 😊), as does Juan Señor of Innovation Media Consulting whenever he pops up at industry events, as he did recently at the PPA’s Independent Publishers Conference.

Juan is a most persuasive speaker and has a lovely turn of phrase. It is hard to find fault with the logic of his case. Here are some of the points he made: 1. There is no digital miracle; unless you get people to pay for your content, you have no future. Only journalism can save journalism. 2. Everything that generates value should generate revenue. 3. Put up a wall – pay or data: publishers must demand dollars or data for viewing content. Otherwise, game over. 4. The wall no longer needs to be hard or soft: the future is dynamic. 5. Publishing fact of life: money is made where the article is viewed: make your site the destination. 6. Stop playing offence; start playing defence. Social media has peaked and is starting to go downhill, so publishers must press home their advantage.

2018 was a busy year for InPublishing as we launched two new products; firstly, in June, our first paid-for product (Peter’s guide); secondly, in September, our first physical event – a roundtable looking at ‘The Technical Challenges & Opportunities Facing Publishers’. It went very well and I’m grateful to PCS for sponsoring the event and the senior publishing people who came along to share their expertise. I have written up the main themes in an article for this issue and you can see a short promotional video here.

Publishers nowadays seem to be permanently busy. Anything once resembling a quiet time in our schedules has been ironed out by the 24/7 demands of the digital world and we’re all in a state of perpetual motion. Exhausting.

Finally, happy birthday to us! Yes, that time of year again. Our 15th, to be precise. It’s now a truism to say that the pace of change is accelerating and that more disruption lies ahead of us than behind us. We have another busy year planned for 2019 and – I know I’m going to regret saying this – our new website is almost ready. Long overdue – nobody’s fault; these things just take forever – but hopefully it’ll be worth the wait. More info to follow in the new year.

As always, thank you to our advertisers, in the magazine, the newsletter and on our website. Please call them.