If Content is King, When Will It Pay?

Content is king. It won’t be the first you’ve heard the phrase, nor will it be the last, but it’s causing more and more companies to find ways to get in on the action, via digital media. Whether it’s an established fashion brand wanting to create a blog to keep their customers engaged, or a local man and van firm creating videos about how to pack valuable item, the appetite for content is at an all-time high.

Journalism, by nature, is content. It’s what they do, and have always done. Journalists, in theory, should be better at creating it than anyone else. In a climate filled with this native content (funded by corporate bodies with deep pockets), where does traditional journalism fit in? Declining print circulation figures have forced some publications to cut staff, scale back operations and, in many cases, close altogether. Business models of the past no longer work, and the demand for free content has stunted any progress.

The marketers are coming into the game late, but are encroaching on the same territory with their non-branded articles, videos and infographics. In spite on the head start, a myriad of news outlets have struggled in this age, filled with an infinite supply of content ideas. As with anything, it comes down to the financial return on this content. If it is sustainable, great. If it is profitable, it is the secret everyone wants to discover.

Can Newcomers Compete with the Big Players?

Among the many things discussed at the recent News on the Move III conference (held by Press Gazette), were the ways in which some online news providers are monetising their content. The subscription model has been found to be effective for those who specialise in publishing to tablet and mobile-optimised devices, in a climate where print publications are plummeting in circulation numbers (due in part to free news content elsewhere). For example, the niche appeal of the mobile-only Electronic Sound Magazine means that it has been able to amass over 1,000 regular readers in eight months, despite its £2.49 monthly fee. It shows that if you supply a quality service and specialise that content to a specific audience, they will be willing to pay for it.

How Will Newspaper Make ‘Free’ Content Pay?

Much like progressive magazines, traditional news outlets have benefitted too. Mobile content is offering news websites the opportunity to explore new avenues that they couldn’t previously. The combination of larger handsets, improved connectivity and interactive interfaces, much more is possible that before. Guardian’s mobile editor Subhajit Banerjee spoke of their sizable tablet readership, collectively amounting to 20% of their overall website page views. Likewise, Metro has seen 350% year-on-year growth since 2013 thanks to their mobile-orientated website. As this content is “free” to consumers (not including the tablet editions of their respective print publications), they monetise it through online display advertising.

Is Online Display Advertising Working?

Although no publishers would speak on how much of their income depends on display advertising, Alex Kozloff of the Internet Advertising Bureaux mentioned that mobile digital advertising has grown from 0.8% of the overall share in 2008, to 20% in 2014. This suggests that online publishers are investing heavily in web interfaces that allow them to feature advertising, to fund the content that they host. The impressions, clicks and conversions from these adverts keep them afloat. The Daily Mail’s website features advertorial content ‘From the Web’ beneath its articles. Although frowned upon, each click pays. It works on a similar principal to display advertising, and has helped them to become the most popular English-language news website in the world.

What Other Methods are Publisher Using?

Away from traditional news outlets, the BuzzFeed model seems to be one of the most effective. They understand what makes the public want to share content, and if they are able to partner with brands to sponsor that content, it makes money. This sponsored content is said to “blend” in with the rest of the editorial seamlessly, which is where other advertising may be less effective. The combination of text, images and short videos make the content as rich as possible, so enhance the experience for the user. For news organisations to engage with the public more, these are some of the tactics they may have to employ to get the results they desire. If a user is engaged, they are more likely to share, thus more likely to get more eyes on their content, which is funded by a sponsor who may pay based on the views it gains. This is why investors are putting their money here, rather than in print.

What is the Future for Monetised News Content?

Bearing all of the above in-mind, news outlets need to continue to adapt to the ways in which its audiences like to consume news. If this is now on-the-go on mobile devices, they need to be able to exploit the technology that can monetise it. This will start with engaging, high-quality content, which is competitive. Depending on whether it suits them, they can then use display advertising, sponsored content, advertorials, and so on to make it pay. As user habits change, so will the news providers. No one has ‘the’ answer the problem, but these methods that are starting to pay off for publishers today.





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