New Media Age Putting More Of Itself Behind Paywall

27 Comments

Centaur‘s online marketing and media mag NMA, which already required a £99-a-year subscription for everything bar “lead” stories and opinion pieces, is now putting those stories from its print edition behind a paywall, too.

Editor Justin Pearse writes that, along with columnists, daily breaking news will remain free for seven days.

The story says NMA has a “phased strategy to introduce a range of premium content and services to add value to bundled subscriptions”.

There’s rarely a perfect paid content strategy to be had by a publisher. NMA’s mimics that of Economist.com, which continues to give away all the new news and its leading voices, while charging for the rest. NMA is placing faith in its bigger-hitting stories being the subscription drivers.

As we reported, Emap Inform is getting ready to throw the pay wall around its trade sites for readers who don’t come via Google.

The media and marketing titles have been amongst the best performing in Centaur’s stable, but the publisher has spent the last year figuring out what to do with them, axing staff from the Mad.co.uk site and turning it in to an sector aggregator for those titles.

27 Comments

malcolm coles

I'm a bit late to this, sorry.

But this whole debate seems to have taken place without any acknowledgement that NMA is using first click free:
http://www.malcolmcoles.co.uk/blog/new-media-age-first-click-free/

So Andy says: "We are just putting the majority of the magazine content behind [the paywall]. There will still be over 40 news stories a week on the site which will be free to access as well as the opinion from our internal and external columnists. Therefore comments about seo /viral / social media exclusion are wide of the mark"

Happy to be proved wrong, but aren't all the stories on the site free to access if you come via google?

Now, I used to be editor of which.co.uk – so I know a thing or two about successful subscription sites. And at the moment, the description you get when you hit the paywall doesn't seem that compelling.

You get: "to view all our premium content and … unrestricted access to an unequalled 12 year archive."

For a start, I can access that archive any time I want via Google can't I? Can you base a business model on making it a tiny bit annoying to access content if you don't subscribe (looking round last night, every time I got to a page I wanted to see, I just pasted the URL into the google toolbar clicked the only result and read away)?

So let's assume most people don't know that. This leaves the problem that here's no explanation of what premium content is.

Can you really hope to drive subscriptions on the basis of nebulous sounding "premium content"? My advice, not that you asked, is to work on the messaging around the paywall – at the moment, it feels like you're trying to sell a paper subscription plus an website-based archive and some emails. Nothing about that would tempt me to get my credit card out.

Rob Faulkner

I think the solution for paying for content is to provide content on a cost basis and if the article does not live up to expectation then you get your money back.

I envisage a sort of token system where each article you read costs you a token (which has a value). If the article was rubbish, poorly written then you claim your money back. As for music downloads there are people who will always go the free route but there is an intelligent majority who will understand that they need to pay, similar too to the BBC licence fee. Tokens can cost 1p each or something equally insignificant.

nma reader

sorry for crashing the party late BUT correct me if I am wrong. Regardless of the "wall" all you need to do is cut and past title into google and you have access. Even on the great WSJ.com it works…

Ashley Friedlein

@Ben

You say "…the strength of the brand itself and the content it produces and not the magazine. Both by using natural search and the digital (social channels), there’s definitely an opportunity to attract and drive traffic…".

I'd absolutely agree with the strength of the *content* but not the brand – if you mean the name of the publishing title. It's all about the content. The strength of the publishing brand as having much inherent value is fast diminishing I'd say. It's happening/happened in TV too I believe. If you want to watch Friends do you care if it it's on "E4 +1", "Dave ja vu", or "Friendsy Friends Channel"..? Soon you'll stream it off YouTube and find it by search I suspect.

And on 'social channels' we've done a lot of analysis on the ability of social media to drive traffic/sales (e.g. see http://econsultancy.com/reports/social-media-marketing-and-monetisation) and the short answer, so far, is that it's great for driving traffic but not sales. It's very 'snacky' traffic as you might expect. But we believe in the brand / PR / SEO value too so absolutely worth it.

On micropayments… probably too detailed to discuss here. But I'm pretty much assuming non credit-card, probably sub £10, type payments? And in the past, providers of these (e.g. BT Click & Buy), have implemented the systems poorly and demanded too big a cut (70%+) to make them viable. Look at Amazon on e-readers, even Apple on iPhone apps (taking a mere 30% I believe). Still a big chunk of an already small payment has gone. You need *big* volume to make money; which is exactly what most B2B titles don't have.

In our experience people are more than happy to pay by credit card (less true in some international markets e.g. India where PayPal is more important). And, in most cases, it *isn't their money*, it's their company's. So they are less price sensitive than when in a B2C context. They just need a 'business case' for any spend. And "my time" as I've said above is often a good one.

Carolyn Morgan

Sorry to be a bit of a late entrant in this discussion, and don't want to be drawn into a debate about how to measure traffic figures on b2b media sites, but I did want to point out that I am a strong believer in using "free" content as marketing to bring in new entrants, and those from peripheral markets/ territories, and then finding clever ways to convert them to paid services. I think that the content creation strategy for free and paid should be completely different as they serve different purposes. Read more on my blog at: http://www.penmaen-media.co.uk/index.php/2009/10/why-content-is-marketing/, or check out the Specialist Media Network on Linked-in for more debate on this issue: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=2307677&trk=myg_ugrp_ovr

Ben Carter

@Ashley. Yep Freemium would be same model type. There has to be a solution for publishers and content owners where some content is available FOC but more 'valuable' content (eg in this case archive news/features/analyses/stats/data that would benefit B2B audiences) is premium and paid-for. That way good quality journalism is still being rewarded but at the same time, users are able to access news content on the site that is current and timely.
In terms of my comment re 'simpler part to drive traffic would be to exploit the strength of the magazine brand, I meant the strength of the brand itself and the content it produces and not the magazine. Both by using natural search and the digital (social channels), there's definitely an opportunity to attract and drive traffic. As for Micropayments- why can't they work with B2B audience. Surely there could be a role for them if they were billed monthly so 'pay -as- you- eat' type model or you buy a certain number of credits?

Ashley Friedlein

@Ben

I think your 'quasi-paid' is similar to what also gets called 'Freemium' i.e. use the free content as a marketing magnet to then upsell to paid. The question remains as to *what* people will pay for – and I'm not convinced 'features and analysis' are worth paying for.

You say "The simpler part will be to drive traffic to the free content based on the strength of the magazine brand". Not sure I'm quite clear on this? If you look at the print circulations of any B2B title they are typically an order of magnitude smaller than their unique users online – NMA has around 5,000 print subscribers but, as Andy has pointed out, ar0und 90,000 unique users online (almost 20X as many). Who are these people online then? Obviously some (20%+?) are non-UK. I imagine the vast majority are delivered by Google natural search. This is certainly true for us.

I think you can use the credibility/authority of a print title to drive SEO as it happens. But the magazine brand's capability in itself to drive lots of traffic to free content…? How many search are there for "New Media Age" online each month in Google. Go and look. Do the same for 'Econsultancy' or any B2B publishing brand for that matter. The numbers are tiny. What the magazine *can* do is drive a much lower volume of the right *quality* of readers/users but, again, how do you monetise this value?

As for micro-payments… that's another whole debate and is – for me – more interesting in the B2C space. I posted on this at http://econsultancy.com/blog/4224-two-ideas-to-solve-two-problems-paid-content-and-multi-channel-marketing and Google then announced that it was indeed offering such a micro-payment service.

Ashley Friedlein

@Gordon

Yes – as I said in a follow up comment the Compete figures are US and wildly lower than the actual figures for BrandRepublic.

BR's traffic did indeed shoot up once the pay-then-registration barriers were lifted. This in no small part due to improved SEO thanks to the resulting inbound links. Exactly what will disappear should a paywall be re-erected.

Unfortunately the recession then hit. Does this mean they now have some unsold/hugely discounted inventory? Are they under pressure to 'go paid' (again)?

I don't know, and if I did, I couldn't say.

But my argument as above would still apply. I agree that what is currently there should stay free, as you say, and they'd need to add other things to get payment for content.

Ben Carter

Surely- the model that works best would be a quasi-paid model. I.E you get free news (in a time window) but access to more in-depth features and analysis and stats on a paid basis. The simpler part will be to drive traffic to the free content based on the strength of the magazine brand and using live feeds etc but then the challenge will be to encourage people to pay for the premium content almost on a micro-payment basis?

Gordon MacMillan

@Ashley Friedlein I think personally as the former editor of the site it is very unlikely that Brand Republic would go paid.

It strikes me as unlikely as the figures you refer to in your graph.

In January when BR published its enhanced ABCe certificate we had 689,480 unique users last October – your chart gives us 60,000???

Traffic at BR has risen significantly since then. Our unaudited figures for October of this year are more than 900,000. Hope that helps you clarify your thoughts.

Ashley Friedlein

@Aaron

I'm not trying to single out NMA – it's just that they published the story about themselves so I'm responding to that. But the same is true of EMAP who are also putting up similar paywalls from what I understand. Murdoch too is talking about it. I could have written the same about any of them.

Hopefully it is a "debate" not an "argument" ;)

And this site should be the place to have that debate?

Ashley

Aaron Savage

http://econsultancy.com/reports/internet-statistics-compendium

Very interesting indeed Ashley. Thanks for that.

I feel a little bit like I've walked into a familly argument here and I certianly don't want to take sides. NMA is still in my opinion the industry's magazine, but I do tihnk more consultation and inclusion with customers would be a good thing to find the best paid for model for all concerned. There is a danger amongst publishing in general that everyone decides to follow a particular path that ends with lots of lemmings throwing themselves off a cliff. That isn't sometihng that customers like me would like to see happen to such a great title.

Ashley Friedlein

@Andy

Thanks for getting back with the correct figures. Google AdPlanner shows NMA globally with 76k uniques/month so too little but not a million miles off.

(So far I’ve been quite impressed with AdPlanner compared to all the other free audience measurement tools out there e.g. those we review at http://econsultancy.com/blog/3760-traffic-and-audience-measurement-what-free-tools-do-you-use )

You say “We are just putting the majority of the magazine content behind it… comments about seo /viral / social media exclusion are wide of the mark”. Is that all *future* such magazine content or archives as well?

If you do the archives then existing links will link to a challenge page (not good for user experience) and, as Google recrawls, will rapidly lose any natural search rankings you have on this ‘long tail’. That’s quite apart from any challenges you will have if you change URLs too (getting 301 redirects etc. right is crucial).

And for future content behind the paywall you will see less inbound linking (people don’t like to ‘barrier’ pages) and therefore lower traffic and worsening natural search.

You say “To make subscribing to the mag / site more compelling”. In our experience people actually pay for content online when they have an acute need for it with a specific value associated to that e.g. they’ve got a presentation to their boss; they’ve got a pitch; they’ve got a job interview. No-one pays for a ‘generally compelling proposition’ – though they do *renew* for this perhaps.

Also no-one really wants to buy a membership/subscription just like that… they are not interested in the ‘wider value’ at the moment of purchase. We mostly sell subs by making the price so close to the pay per view cost that it’s a no brainer. Just by putting “more stuff” behind the paywall you won’t get more people to pay: people don’t pay because of *how much* stuff you can offer them but whether you have exactly what they need at the right time, for the right place. Publishers need to think like retailers.

I also think you should consider decoupling the site from the magazine – the latter is fairly geographically constrained (with 5,000 subscribers) whilst the former isn’t. 40%+ of our paid content sales are non-UK. The website must be able to have its own value to sell content globally; and if it isn’t global then the market is too small.

Magazine publishers seem to work on the assumption that the website is there to sell mag subs. Where we’ve considered doing something in print it is essentially as a marketing tool for the *online* presence. I’m a great believer in the power of offline marketing, and print/DM. But most publishers are appallingly bad at using their print properties to market their websites – they have no faith in this and are mostly busy trying to defend/shore up a dying print ad revenue stream.

The “Phase 2” you allude to sounds more compelling, with more of a reason to pay. But if you put “magazine content” behind the paywall *before* that, I think you’re just going to kill traffic and get very little money back. Much better, in my opinion, to open it up *much more* and use this content as marketing to then sell the stuff people *will* actually pay for.

For people who, in my opinion, ‘get’ the right Freemium model in B2B publishing read stuff from Rory Brown, Neil Thackray, Carolyn Morgan… pretty much all ‘ex’ various big B2B companies. Either they, and me, are barking mad or we’ve seen the writing on the wall. I certainly haven’t yet seen anything coming out of the likes of EMAP to give me any confidence in their long term future.

@Aaron

Completely agree with all you say. In particular “likely to pay for data and tools that help me about the industry I work in.”

And you say “Every pitch requires me to look up this audience breakdown or that potential market value”. Yes, exactly. This is customer-centric thinking; this is a real situation with real value at stake; this is a scenario / persona in real life. But too many publishers still think their (magazine) brand is this God-like valuable asset. I’m afraid it isn’t.

Indeed, your need outlined above is pretty much why I founded Econsultancy. And, with some irony, still today our *best-selling* piece of *paid content* is our Internet Statistics Compendium (http://econsultancy.com/reports/internet-statistics-compendium) which is a compilation of all the best *freely available* stats and data about digital marketing and ecommerce. Which proves what? That time (in B2B) is valuable. And packaging / ease of consumption is valuable.

Aaron Savage

I’ve been an avid NMA reader for what is probably ten years now, and along with Revolution it is one of my two 'compass' finding publications.

The question about paid for content is one that is all over the media with newspapers obviously having the most searching questions asked of them. The paywall for older content doesn’t sound like a solution for newspapers and I have doubts as to whether it will work for any publication that relies on getting the scoop for breaking news, so that complicates things even further. The rest of the answer at the moment revolves around comment on that news.

As a customer not involved in the magazine publication industry I can tell you that as a digital marketing professional I would be more likely to pay for data and tools that help me about the industry I work in. Every pitch requires me to look up this audience breakdown or that potential market value and its usually pretty hard work finding accurate figures, especially historical ones showing a trend.

I know it is a very sore point to accept that people will not pay for good journalism for the entire publishing industry, but it is a fact that there will be a myriad of free alternatives available across the world in a matter of seconds from a story breaking. I assume that we are not going to reach a point where publishers attempt to copyright a story (which I could see Murdoch’s empire attempting and failing to achieve as it is no more ludicrous than any of his other ludicrous attempts). That isn't to say that quality journalism (which NMA is excellent at) has to disappear, just that the marketplace has some pretty impressive free options available to them. So where is the value coming from? What will I be persuaded to get my credit card out for? Has anyone asked me?

I certainly don’t have a magic wand answer and quite frankly am as in the dark as anyone else without ESP is right now, but I would hope that customers and publishers together would be able to find the answer. Simply following the herd doesn’t seem to me to be what the new media (can we still call it new now?) industry was ever about.

Andy Oakes

Ok, last month we (NMA) got 89k unique users. But the point is that there has been a pay-wall up for years. We are just putting the majority of the magazine content behind it. There will still be over 40 news stories a week on the site which will be free to access as well as the opinion from our internal and external columnists. Therefore comments about seo /viral / social media exclusion are wide of the mark

We are a multichannel content provider and each has its own revenue stream. The magazine is fully paid for and carries a good amount of display, recruitment and classified ads. We hold paid for and sponsored events every month plus the awards.

Why are we putting more behind the wall? To make subscribing to the mag / site more compelling. The data and premium content areas which will follow will only be accessible to paying subscribers, We understand that we have to offer more value, we have to give people a reason to part with hard earned cash.
As Justin said earlier we are testing the waters. We listen to our readers, we react. And to judge by 95% of the comments on twitter etc, our readers understand what we are doing . We are providing specialised content to a niche audience who value what we produce. Its the similar publishers who don't try a paid content strategy I'd worry about..

Ashley Friedlein

"stoush"… there's a mighty fine word I'd never come across.

@jonathon: yes, fair point, Compete.com's stats are US ones. Those stats probably do BrandRepublic a particular disfavour.

I'm not sure what nma.co.uk's actual figures are as I don't think they are on their site and I can't figure out ABCe's new database/access.

According to Google AdPlanner (not bullet proof but better than Compete) nma.co.uk gets around 50k uniques/month in the UK. Team NMA/Advertising – is this correct? (our site data is on Google AdPlanner coming direct from our Google Analytics so is as accurate as know it ourselves).

I wasn't out to bash NMA so apologies if it comes across that way. But I am frustrated by the publishing world's apparent inability to create business models based around what their readers *really* value rather than the business models the execs think they need to *impose* upon their users to shore up a sometimes dying/broken model.

If a site like NMA were getting 50k uniques a month… Let's say it's not NMA, but let's imagine a similar site… at a conversion rate of 0.2% (realistic) on £99 that's 100 a month @ £99 = £10k a month = £120k a year.

I guess if that's genuinely *incremental* revenue/profit then that's not bad but it hardly sets the world on fire. And you'd have to offset possible reduction in other areas (traffic, data for events etc.) + the costs that come with building infrastructure, customer service etc.

So I'm genuinely interested in hearing the business model. Maybe my estimates are all way too low? But we have been doing "paid content" for 10 years now so I'd hope we know a little about that.

Now if you were talking recruitment, awards events etc. then I'd more than happily take advice from NMA as they do those much better than we ever could.

jonathon

i dont want to interrupt this brilliantly entertaining B2B stoush, but i thought Compete's figures were US -only? … making Ashley's figures about NMA's traffic complete rubbish …

…and who's updating your sites while you're all wasting your time in here?

Justin Pearse

Hi Robert,

We're obviously, like everyone, experimenting. All our magazine content was always for subscribers online.
Not easy this paid conundrum is it! Very interested to hear your views. Excellent idea to talk to Andy more about nma/Cenaur strategy.

and Ashley, thanks for all the comments. It is a tricky area.

Ashley Friedlein

Hi Rob

Good to hear from you (Disclaimer: Rob used to write for Econsultancy and very good he was too!).

I don't think it is about 'new' vs. 'old' story/news. It doesn't matter how new it is – people still won't pay for it. Unless you are in a business where there is definite value in the timeliness itself (e.g. financial trading).

The *biggest* stories will increasingly be broken on either "social media" or "very big media" (e.g. BBC) anyway. B2B titles (like Econsultancy, like paidcontent, like NMA) can never really derive real value from "breaking news". Which is why we've never done news. NMA do that very well. But there's no money in it. I can get it any number of ways/places. We can do niche, we can do insight, we can do analysis, but even that is mostly 'marketing' on the Freemium model to drive monetisation elsewhere (research, data, events, training etc.).

But, hey, that's my view.

Ashley

Robert Andrews

I'm as curious about NMA's strategy as I am anyone who lets the new stuff go free and the old behind a paywall. Isn't the *new* stuff the *valuable* stuff?

How will you decide on what a "lead" story is that goes paid? Is that an editorial decision? Is it that all magazine content will be paid-for, but only at the time it's published on Thursday (a lot of the stories break online as they hit, right?)?

Andy – we're also happy to chat with NMA/Centaur further about strategy.

Ashley, you know any deal agreed here has to give us commission, right? ;-)

Ashley Friedlein

p.s. I read http://www.nma.co.uk/new-media-age-puts-magazine-news-behind-pay-wall/3006211.article originally. Perhaps this doesn't make fully clear what *will* be happening?

My fundamental contention is that people won't pay for "analysis" or "lead news" as Justin describes it. The unfortunate truth is that they are a nice to have. And this is true for our site too.

All you do is destroy your viral/social media/SEO/inbound-link building Google juice by putting up such paywalls to content people won't pay for anyway.

(Read the comments so far on your own story for insight into that).

Now if you were charging for data, tools, services, apps, research etc. that *would* make some sense.

If you'd like to give us your NMA Top 100 data from the last 10 years I reckon we could turn that into a very profitable online data service…

Ashley Friedlein

Ah Andy… wondered whether I'd get a reaction. For some reason whenever I try to comment on NMA.co.uk my comments never get published ;)

I'm more than happy to be proved wrong – even in public. And, as I say, I think NMA's content is great. But I can't see the business model working at least as outlined above?

So what are the true figures and what are you really doing? Happy to interview you for our own newsletter if you want…

(this isn't really about NMA, it's about the future of B2B media/publishing. My personal view is that most publishers are getting it wrong)

Ashley

Andy Oakes

Nice work Ashley – completely wrong figures and complete misunderstanding of what we are doing.
Andy Oakes
Pubisher
New Media Age

Ashley Friedlein

Well… good luck to them. Brandrepublic (Haymarket's mad.co.uk equivalent) will go the same way soon.

But I don't rate their chances if they think news, however "big-hitting", will sell. I can't complain because it will only benefit the likes of us (niche) on the one hand and bigger free media players (in particular the BBC) on the other.

If you take a look at the traffic stats for our site (http://econsultancy.com) versus nma.co.uk verusus brandrepublic.com (see http://siteanalytics.compete.com/econsultancy.com+nma.co.uk+brandrepublic.com/ for rough idea) then the outlook looks even more bleak. This is the state *before* they put up the paywall…?!

Meanwhile, Centaur are launching separate sites like http://reputationonline.co.uk/ – a hot area maybe but just further dilutes the brand and SEO equity overall.

The last edition of NMA I had contained 3 ads excluding their own and excluding recruitment ads.

I really rate NMA's content but from where I'm sitting their business model and plans are all over the shop…?

Ashley Friedlein
CEO
Econsultancy
http://econsultancy.com

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