SUMMARY: More and more media sites require paid subscriptions to read stories, but if they really want to increase paid readership, they need to ensure that their content is worth paying for.
Ever since Trump was defeated in the election, metrics for online news sites have declined dramatically. Most news sites are still using scare headlines around the pandemic to attract readers, but signs are that the public is sick and tired of hearing about COVID.
Up to 65% of people in markets around the world are willing to pay for content they would otherwise get for free. Essentially media sites can make money online by either charging for a subscription or allowing free access to increase metrics, thus charging online advertisers more money for ads. The Huffington Post, which is free, fired a lot of people rather than strengthening its content for increased readership. This, to me, makes no sense. Good journalism is a product that people will pay for, as online subscriptions for the NY Times have shown. The Huffington Post should be looking for journalists who can inspire people to become Huffington Post readers, not cut staff.
The other issue that publishers aren’t looking at is the costs for readers. Can readers really afford to subscribe to for or five publications when there is so much free content online? The answer, of course, is no. Publishers are a product, and if they want people to pay for that product, they have to provide better content consistently.
The other issue that is bothering a lot of people, researched using social media, is an inexpensive trial offer followed by an automatic billing after the trial that costs a small fortune. You can, for example, subscribe to The Washington Post for a great trial price, but after the trial, you’re charged over $100.
Another issue I have with publishers is the wordiness of their content. In the morning, most of us go to our bookmarked sites and read what we can, but our time is limited even though we’re working at home. Sure, a good journalist piece can be long, but publishers would serve their readers a lot better if they summarized the article’s key points. Harvard Business Review realized that and now includes a summary of all their business content.
The Internet is ingrained in our daily lives but people just don’t have the time to consume all the content that’s out there.
People love taking the easy road but trust is essential
We want fast food, quick service, and instant access; convenience is King and we’ll pay good money to get it. In fact: Research shows 44% of people pay for premium content services because it’s convenient. It puts all of the content they want under one roof and reduces the decisions they need to make. What is convenience? Summarized key points, tags, links, and content that’s easy to read.
A report shows that across six countries – China, Germany, India, South Korea, United Kingdom and United States – people pay for subscriptions because it enhances their trust in the quality of the content and reassures them that their personal data is safe. This trust comes largely from their positioning as a quality brand.
In news, the most heavily subscribed brands are those aligned with values such as reliability, truthfulness, objectivity, and integrity. A study released by the Center for Media Engagement found that complete information regarding a topic gives consumers a higher sense of trust. This explains why subscriptions continue to grow for well-established brands in the news media sector, such as New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Financial Times.
Like it or not, publishers are all fighting for an audience willing to pay for content. To win, they need digital marketers who understand why people will pay for content and what they need to do to increase readers. Usability studies are also a must. Too many online magazines and newspapers have lousy usability.
The web continues to grow and evolve but users are demanding and if you want their money you had better invest in good journalists and a better online experience.