Some of the largest national newspaper publishers in North America have shifted their strategies to sell access for readers to view their online content. They appear to have reached a tipping point for the average city newspaper to tap into a new revenue model, and most are completely floundering. In order to boost sagging print revenues, alternatives to the paywall method need to be considered.
Credit has to be given to the New York Times for establishing the paywall method of news consumption. The newspaper originated the idea on a broad scale, offering a specific number of page views per month for free, then charging for additional content. It now has a dedicated subscription base of 640,000 readers and is generating double-digit growth every quarter in revenue. Several other national papers have followed suit, such as the Daily Telegraph in the UK and The Washington Post.
National newspapers have an easier time with transitioning their digital business to the paywall structure. They all have a very active subscription base that is not centralized. Companies like these do fairly well, but smaller newspapers suffer as they are faced with the conundrum of how exactly to generate enough revenue to offset the dramatic loss of print advertising.
Since 2007, advertising revenue has decreased by around 40% in the UK and United States. Companies that used to be the backbone of generating national and local advertisements have switched to using Google and advertising exchanges. According to some sources, online spending on web and video ads should reach $35.5 billion dollars by the end of the year. Advertising exchanges tend to be the most popular way publishers can inexpensively reach their online audiences. They are essentially electronic platforms that allow buyers to bid on and purchase advertising space at drastically reduced prices. Many websites—not just digital newspapers—rely on these exchanges to sell unclaimed advertising spots, known in industry parlance as excess inventory.
This digital advertising is training ad buyers to expect lower advertising prices, instead of the traditionally higher priced ads in a print newspaper. “It’s like a publisher trying to sell me an Armani suit for $3,000, but I can walk around the corner and buy it from Google for 95 % less,” said Shawn Riegsecker, chief executive of Centro, an agency. “[Advertisers] are buying audience instead of context and they don’t care what sites they are on,” said Gordon McLeod, president of Krux, a company that helps websites interpret data.
In conjunction with the recent decline of readership and advertising revenue, we have seen an increase in free news services. Some of these news outlets are among the most highly trafficked websites in the world, such as The Huffington Post, The Drudge Report, Business Insider, Buzzfeed, and Politico. The larger portals, such as Yahoo News and Google News, were built on the idea of producing full service news products with significantly fewer resources and at significantly less cost than traditional news organizations, largely by recycling free digital news feeds.
Paywalls are at best a stopgap measure for the future of newspaper publishers who are trying to find a viable self-sustaining business model. The average paper simply does not have compelling stories that would warrant readers paying money to read their articles. Digitally savvy consumers are getting their news faster from Zite, Flipboard, or Pulse, or even going directly to the source. At the same time, newspapers have to scale back their businesses to adjust to the new digital landscape. In order to be sustainable over the next 20 years, they will have to scale back their operations and reduce their staff sizes. Some newspapers can continue to exist, albeit as vastly smaller and less profitable businesses.
Industry experts have stated that most of their print newspapers will die in the next ten years. The only papers that will be sustainable in the long-term will be small local papers that provide local news, stories, and content that appeals to residents of a specific region. The overwhelming majority of national and regional papers will simply disappear, as they cannot match the zero-day coverage that online news provides.
Beyond the paywall, some news aggregation companies are seeking alternative solutions. There are a few that are working on a proprietary advertising platform that will offer advertisers the ability to buy ads in the local paper and also feature them online. This all-in-one solution is certainly easier to market and cultivates a direct relationship with their advertising partners. One of the drawbacks of exclusively advertising online is that the reach is larger but it is very impersonal. It will remain to be seen if something like this proves to be sustainable. Innovative advertising services are nothing new, but some larger retailers seem to be doing quite well with their own platforms by allowing companies to display ads directly on their products, such as Amazon’s entire line of “Special Offers” Kindle devices.
The New York Times is an anomaly and its success should not be emulated. Almost every major publishing company has bought into this model and seldom give out their woeful subscription numbers. The entire paywall concept is a recipe for failure and can be likened to other industry copycatting of successful business practices, as in the case of companies attempting to follow in Apple’s footsteps.
Instead of emulating, publishers should be innovating, but cash strapped newspapers cannot be bothered to devote any research and development dollars of note. It is fearful that first the bookstores and now the newspapers will fall by the wayside as the world shifts to ebooks and digital news consumption.
Why the Vast Majority of Newspaper Paywalls Will Fail is a post from: E-Reader News
Saturday, July 20, 2013
The summer months are typically a time of slower activity and slightly reduced book sales, both for publishers and self-published authors. To fill in the gaps, one author has started an annual event that aims to connect readers with authors whose works they might not otherwise have found.
The Blogger Book Fair, an idea conceived of by Kayla Curry, author the paranormal dystopian novel Obsidian and the forthcoming sequel Moonstone, a year ago when the late stages of pregnancy prevented her from participating in a physical book signing, has grown exponentially over last year’s numbers to include over 200 authors and book bloggers who will feature of 400 books for next week’s seven-day event. The format of the event sees authors of different genres paired with book bloggers who play host to those authors on their websites, offering authors the opportunity for discovery and a broader reach of fans.
After authors enrolled for the free event during the April to June signup period, Curry then matched the authors with the bloggers based on genre and readership. Apart from the posts authors prepared for their blog appearances, the event also sees giveaways, contests, and the Blogger Book Fair Readers’ Choice Awards, voted on by the participating readers.
This summer’s Fair will be the third staging of the event, the second one that Curry has held in the summer months; an additional staging of the event occurred in February of this year. Curry, along with help from book bloggers Sel Petzig and Pereza Thompson, builds the event and enables readers to browse via the event’s website to find new titles by genre or by author.
“They’ll be able to see all the blogs that are participating,” explained Curry in an interview, “and by going to those blogs they’ll see tons of giveaways, free books, 99-cent books, and more.”
ComiXology announced at Comic-Con International that it is adding three new publishers to its lineup: Scholastic Graphix, Udon Entertainment and Seven Seas.
Publishers Weekly’s Calvin Reid broke the news this morning about the Scholastic deal; their Graphix imprint is an intriguing addition to the mix. They publish high quality children’s graphic novels, and their debut digital line includes Doug TenNapel’s Cardboard, Ghostopolis, and Bad Island, Frank Cammuso’s Knights of the Lunch Table books, Chynna Clugston’s Queen Bee, and Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novel adaptations of the Baby-Sitters Club books. Going forward, Scholastic will release new titles digitally via comiXology the same day they come out in print. The high quality of their line is matched by high prices, with most books priced at $9.99 and up; it’s worth checking Amazon if you’re thinking of buying these digitally, as many of them are available in the Kindle store for a dollar or two less.
Udon Entertainment publishes comics tie-ins to popular video games such as Street Fighter, as well as an array of licensed manga from Japan. They are kicking off on comiXology with a selection of Street Fighter comics and the first issue of Jim Zubkavich’s Makeshift Miracle. "We've been working hard to secure digital rights for many of our licenses for the past several years,” said Udon publisher Eric Ko, “and we've prepared a slate of licensed comics and graphic novels from our Street Fighter and Darkstalkers line, as well as selections from our manga, art book, and original graphic novel series' that fans are really going to love.” Udon plans to rapidly beef up its digital line, both with older books from its backlist and new releases coming out the same day as print; these will include, later this fall, their Street Fighter Origins: Akuma graphic novel.
Seven Seas is a manga publisher that carries Japanese and Korean licensed manga as well as other graphic novels done in the manga style. Most manga publishers have their own apps or put their work on eBook platforms such as Kindle or Nook, so the addition of Seven Seas beefs up comiXology’s manga content considerably. It’s also worth noting that while small, Seven Seas is a fast-growing publisher with plans to increase its output by 50% over last year. Their launch selection includes Haganai: I Don’t Have Many Friends, Amazing Agent Luna, and Hollow Fields, a steampunk adventure story for young adults. One title, Dance in the Vampire Bund, seems not to be available in the iOS app, presumably because of content, but can be purchased via the web.
When it comes to reading eBooks, many people are in two different camps. In one, you have the dedicated e-Ink crowd, that tends to buy the Kindle Paperwhite or Kobo Aura HD. In the other, you have tablet owners that download apps to read all of their books. There actually has been a 3rd option for the last year, but no one really talks about it and the companies fail to promote it. I am of course talking about online eBook readers, that allow you to buy and read books online.
Amazon Cloud Reader, Kobo Cloud Reader, Nook for Web, Zinio, Overdrive and PressDisplay all offer the ability to buy and read content on the web. This goes beyond a simple website and instead gives you an HTML5 reading solution. Most of these services are responsive, which means if you have a 4 inch phone or a 10 inch tablet, they optimize to your screen size. There are plenty of cool features such as the ability to change the font, margin, linespacing, look words up in the dictionary, make notes and do highlights. Any changes you make in the online book, will automatically be synced to your favorite online reading app. For example, if you use the Kindle Cloud Reader and make five highlights, these changes will be evident in Kindle for Android or iOS.
Cloud Readers as a whole are getting more popular. Barnes and Noble recently discontinued Nook for PC and Nook for MAC and encouraging people to gravitate towards their cloud reading platform. This is the only company to really put an emphasis on the technology. The others, mainly use it to bypass Apple restrictions on in-app purchases, since its all done through the web-browser and purchases synced to your main app account, quite clever.
In this review, we take a look at most of the popular cloud readers and give you our take on the different features they bring to the table. Some are more advanced than others, and some just fail to load or crash constantly.