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Digital media needs to cast a wider revenue net

Online publishers should be savvy with how they intend to tap revenues and not rely on subscriptions alone

Gulf News

Dubai: For digital media owners the question persists — should or shouldn’t they be charging for the content? But they inevitably come up short against this response — Why should a consumer pay for something he can get for free? But truth is monetising digital content is laden with grey areas.

Revenue from online resources is possible but publishers need to offer original — and even what may deemed as valuable — content beyond what competitors are doing.

Robert Picard, who has done extensive research on media economics, provides some insights, But he is realistic about the fact that profits will not be immediate and never match up to the Golden Age of print.

We can’t expect all global markets to have the same character in terms of content platforms and payment processes. This explains why there is no specific formula for online payment.

Instituting a paywall reduces website traffic by between 85-95 per cent, but “freemium” models can help mitigate this loss. Picard gives examples of co-operative paywalls involving multiple newspapers working together to generate profits.

Before make the decision, publishers need to know the regional environment. If there are big media players producing quality content for free, consumers will not be willing to pay for content that is not.

Revenues from digital media will be generated not just by one source. It can come from online subscriptions, advertisements, paid apps and partnerships. Paid apps on smartphones and tablets are gaining better acceptance than general online payments.

Users and consumers want to have a real experience for each platform — mobile phones, tablets and websites. They expect more from a digital environment than print and they are willing to pay if it offers a better experience, more interactivity, better graphic quality and multiple information channels.


Newsmakers of 2012

According to Google, the most searched for subjects last year were Hurricane Sandy followed by topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. The massacre at Newtown, Connecticut, came in at No 9. The most searched term was ‘Whitney Houston’ — the singer died in February.

The most searched news sources were NBC, the Five Thirty Eight blog, Nate Silver, and Chi, the Italian magazine that published photos of Kate.

On YouTube, the most accessed video was Style Gangnam. On Facebook, the US Presidential elections were the most discussed event, followed by Super Bowl and the death of Whitney.

(Source; Google, Youtube and Facebook)

Pulling in support for press freedom

A group has founded a non-profit organisation to serve as a channel for funding projects like Wikileaks. The Freedom of the Press Foundation aims to isolate the political and commercial pressures against pro-transparency initiatives.

Among the members are Daniel Ellsberg, famous for leaking secret documents about the Pentagon during the Vietnam War; Glenn Greenwald, journalist at The Guardian; John Perry Barlow, founder of an organisation for the right to internet access; Xeni Jardin of the site Boing Boing, and actor John Cusack, an activist against the lack of government transparency

“We believe in open government, transparency. Do not think WikiLeaks should suffer alone,” said Barlow. “We hope to help other similar initiatives, organisations that can play an important role journalism.”

According to Ellsberg, the future of WikiLeaks was uncertain with 95 per cent of its donations blocked. He expects the Foundation to ensure the survival of the site: “WikiLeaks is not perfect, but even with all his mistakes he has a necessary function to expose an administration that lacks transparency.”

(Source: New York Times News Service)