World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Panel: Paid content experiences

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

Panel: Paid content experiences

  • Christoph Keese, Head of Public Relations for Axel Springer, one of the largest and most innovative media companies in Europe. Axel Springer has been at the forefront in Germany when it comes to digital paid content.

The Hamburger Abendblatt is a success story when it comes to monetising regional and local content as premium offerings, and Die Welt and the Welt am Sonntag offer their quality content successfully on a number of paid digital platforms.

For its well-known Bild tabloid title, one of the largest-circulated paid newspapers in Europe, it has so far not charged for online content. But Keese confirmed that the publisher is contemplating a “paygate.”

Axel Springer has charged for all of its products in the app store from the outset. “We can almost say that we pretty much know how this works and that it is going very well.”

  • Simon Regan-Edwards, Head of Technology at the Times and Sunday Times in UK. The Times and Sunday Times were one of the first daily newspapers to introduce a hard paywall for digital offerings. They use the so-called “site access” model, where the user can see only the homepage without a subscription. Regan-Edwards says the company recently reached 133,000 digital subscribers. Was it worth the loss in traffic? “Yes, we think it was. This brings us more revenue than before and has not impacted our advertising,” he says.

And in August, he says, The Times surpassed the 100,000-subscriber mark for its e-edition on the iPad. There are a number of bundled offers, but one basic package costs 2.50 pounds per week.

  • Mikael Pentikäinen, Senior Editor-in-Chief of Helsingin Sanomat in Finland. In December, the company will launch an “open paywall” where much of its content will be available behind its paywall. The company already sells bundled print-digital subscriptions as its main product. The digital subscription consists of a digital replica of the paper, an HTML version and access to archives as well as smartphone and iPad apps. In 2011, the paper began to offer digital-only subscriptions. Pentikäinen says the paper has converted one-third of its print subscribers to the all-access subscription plan. "The challenge is getting that big visitor free audience to sign up for the digital-only access,” he says.

Offering unique content

One of the critical factors in launching a paid digital content strategy is figuring out what is the right type of content to sell. Dietmar Schantin, Founder of the Institute for Media Strategies in Austria, who serves as the session moderator, says for most publishers, only 5-20 percent of their content is ready to be sold.

Each of the panelists is doing due diligence to enhance their content offer, as well as analysing how to best monetise that content, also with advertising.

For Bild, Keese says it’s all about creating more unique content that can be sold. The newspaper scored a big victory in delivering unique content when it recently reached agreement with the German national soccer league to deliver edited video excerpts of games 60 minutes after the end of a match. Sky has the live coverage rights and local TV stations can deliver highlights later.

“If this works, it puts us into a very unique situation and gives us a great opportunity to monetise this content.”

Although offering unique content is key to any paid content strategy, Keese believes that breaking news done well also has its price tag online. “I will say that even though news is a commodity, it can be unique in the way you write and present it. The New York Times can charge because of the dynamic way they write their content.”

For Die Welt, Keese says the paper is working hard to measure traffic on its site on a channel-by-channel basis, to gain data that will help it create targeted content packages and advertising packages.

Pentikäinen says Helsingin Sanomat has created a data journalism unit “to create new ways of telling news which will bring added value for sure. We are also merging our broadcast part of our operations and reorganising our newsroom where managers are deciding what news goes where and when. With this combination, it gives a much better opportunity to ensure that we are offering best content possible for the appropriate audience that will pay.”

The right technology

One issue that emerges during the paid digital content strategy panel discussion is the challenge of creating good technical solutions to make it easy for users to sign up for bundled offers and on metered models.

Since print still brings in the majority of revenues for most publishers, when they start putting up paid digital subscription offers, they have to offer bundled packages tied to print. And that means linking up new systems, in most cases, to legacy systems and databases from the print side.

“It is indeed complicated on the technological side to implement,” says Keese. “If you haven’t started on a paywall or are considering to do it, you need to start a working project team as soon as possible to address this issue. If you have legacy business and you want to protect and promote your legacy business, you have to bundle your subscriptions, and that means working with legacy systems.”



Dean Roper's picture

Dean Roper


2012-09-05 13:28

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