Tuesday 13/3/12 open/twitter thread
The Australian Financial Review is one example of a paywall that seems to have worked.
The reason traffic does not make money? At first, it was because the audience was not what advertisers would pay for. When people talk of millions of page views they’re talking about eyeballs from everywhere, a fraction of whom might want the advertiser’s Ford in Footscray. By itself, that discounted pricing. Publishers used auto refresh and other gimmicks to pump traffic, which ultimately encouraged price pressure too. Inventory was infinite. Then along came Google Adsense and dollars became cents.
It is explained the AFR never really went for advertising revenue online.
And not that every word in this next piece reads like manna from the bank, but there’s some insight into the breakdown of revenues the Australian would need/needs and about those advertising dollars (cents).
The Fin avoided this problem by forsaking the low road on yield all along. The Australian lacks this advantage.
And what’s life without a post script. Much of The Australian’s advertising inventory is essentially worthless. That’s because it is generated by a piece of code called auto refresh. This regenerates the Web page and serves new advertisements every few minutes. With modern browsers, this means much of the advertising will never be seen by human eyes. Quite a racket, really.
Both publications are specialist and reasonably specialist respectively, however. Especially in the case of the AFR, there was always a dedicated niche audience, and that – not ad revenue – is what’s bringing the dollars in with its online model.
And a quick search didn’t find anything about the success or lack thereof of the Australian’s relatively recent switch to subscriber content (but the WSJ isn’t doing so well apparently).
However, maybe the Australian’s semi-niche audience (paying substantially less per head than the AFR’s – about $150 per year for online vs $109 per month) will be (is?) enough to pull it over the line along with ad revenue (and surely, shouldn’t ad prices and revenue on subscriber-only pages be a good deal higher?)
But the Herald Sun? A tabloid? With so much content directed at a limited, local audience? It’s harsh, yet perhaps fair to argue the Hun can’t command the type of reader – nor enough of them – to have their paywall work. After all, if reverting to paying for content, I for one want the real nitty gritty, NOT the latest musings of Cameron Diaz or some politician on a municipal Victorian council that I’ve never heard of.
This assertion could well be because I’m lamenting the more-than-a-decade-old habit of being able to freely and easily read literally hundreds of newspapers, and finding oneself privy to a seemingly endless bounty of opinion and debate, is being threatened.
Ten years of habit being wiped out, and thus I don’t want it to work?
Regardless, it will be interesting to see where it goes, and if no kind of “umbrella” subscription is ever made available (as odd as that would be considering the past two decades of convergence of media and technology), and one were forced to bite the bullet on just one publication (???), well, that would be the Australian.
Nitty gritty. Yet there’s still so much (more) of it – and the puff, too – out there on less conventional and/or specialist sites. Sure, you have to search around a bit more, but two points:
1. That’s half the fun of blogging.
2. There are so many good bloggers and commenters out there who do such searching also.
With a gourmet, over-stocked buffet still being served on the Web, and so far only a couple of spoonfuls of caviar missing, it will be a while yet before dinner is over… if ever.
No reason not to be a little concerned (but also interested), though.