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Digital payments and diversification for publishers: Recommended strategies for monetizing paid-for content

Publishers have experimented with paid-for digital content since the 1990s and in the time since have gained experience that has given them a much clearer view of what does and doesn’t work. Paywall strategies and payment models have become increasingly sophisticated during the experimental years. Meanwhile, barriers to distribution are coming down. But when it comes to driving growth, what is the right digital content model to adopt? Which new products and services should publishers explore?

This is the concluding blog in our series that has taken a look at findings from our research report, Digital Payments and Diversification: Where Next for European Publishers? published with consultancy MTM. Earlier blogs have looked at the need to reset paid-for digital priorities for content, the new digital models that publishers are adopting, and the barriers facing paid-for digital content initiatives . Here, we take a look at the way ahead for newspaper and magazine publishers.

Which paid-for model is right for you?

When it comes to the type of paid-for content to pursue, newspaper publishers favor metered paywalls (limited free access without subscription) and a freemium approach (some content free; some behind a paywall), while for magazine publishers, advertising remains a key digital revenue source.

Across our surveyed regions and sectors, though, opportunities are seen for digital diversification through new digital paid-for products and services. These vary widely according to each market, but include ecommerce, information and reference, specialist apps and services and gaming/gambling. More details are presented in the research paper.

Through these opportunities, publishers may seek to leverage established brands and content, and tap into reader passions.

62% of publishers see developing paid-for digital as one of their top priorities

Paid-for digital has the attention of publishers. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of those in our survey include the development of new paid-for digital products and services among their top three strategic priorities. However, there are differences of opinion between sectors and the regions we surveyed (the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden). Magazine publishers are less confident than their newspaper counterparts that paid-for digital will drive significant revenue growth in the next three years. Among newspaper publishers, the UK’s confidence level is behind that of the other regions.

How to succeed in digital content, products and services

Whether publishers are pursuing paid-for online content or new paid-for digital products and services, our research unearthed four main success factors:

  1. Strong premium brands are more likely to succeed
  2. High-value content and compelling user experiences, because while “content is king,” it needs to be appropriate to the format and expectations of the consumers
  3. State-of-the-art analytics, customer insight and digital marketing capabilities, which must be embedded across organizations. This requires people in place with the appropriate skills
  4. Technology and product development capabilities

There is renewed industry optimism and excitement around paid-for digital content, and rightly so. It offers significant opportunities for publishers and can open up a whole range of exciting new ways to reach customers. While opportunities vary from publisher to publisher and market to market, those that succeed will have done so through leveraging their premium brand, providing high-quality content, making best use of technology platforms and data analytics and investing in digital talent.

To find out more about paid-for digital content and how it is likely to develop in the coming years, simply take a look at the full research report, Digital Payments and Diversification: Where Next for European Publishers?, or watch as I present the interim results at the FIPP Digital Innovator’s Summit in Berlin.

About Author

Michael Isaacs

Michael Isaacs

Michael Isaacs is Director of Product Marketing at Vindicia. A veteran of Amdocs and former Amdocs portfolio evangelist for communications and entertainment, Michael is always running – either after customers, kids, or his marathon personal best.

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