Paid content comes of age

From failed strategy to fad to full-fledged movement

Just two years after being dismissed as a failed strategy, paid online content modules have become a full blown movement.

While pundits and the public watched to see how the New York Times’ model would be received, the rest of the industry wasn’t waiting.

Frustrated by sluggish digital revenues, small dailies moved decisively, often creating their own models and solutions. Weeklies have also moved into charging for digital content.

Interviews with daily publishers in the spring of 2011 revealed that four in 10 required payment for some online content. And a survey of weekly publishers at the end of the year showed that non-daily papers weren’t far behind: when e-edition subscriptions were combined with web pay models, more than 40 percent were charging for digital news content.

The revenue generated by these pay models hasn’t made up for print shortfalls or even offset stalled growth in digital ad revenue. But asking readers to pay represents an important contribution at time when newspapers needed it most.

Aside from the financial contribution — viewed by many publishers as “found money” — charging for online content movement makes an important statement: News content has true value. The days of newspapers “giving it away” are numbered.


The report also includes last year’s paid content survey of dailies, research summary on readers’ willingness to pay, and another research summary on lessons learned modeling pricing models.

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