Can customer publishers ever charge for online content?

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What with all the chat being about paywalls, I thought that now might be a good time to see if brands will ever charge for content.

I do think that brands will eventually become the main online content providers thanks to blogs, Facebook pages, etc as old media models fall by the wayside. Some sites may be able to charge for content – though probably not newspapers IMO – but ones owned by brands?

Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote for the APA on how some might.

Full article is here http://www.apa.co.uk/news/can-customer-publishers-ever-charge-for-online-content

So how might the customer publishing industry evolve to enable it to erect paywalls for its branded content? One possibility might be to look to how bands like U2 and The Gorillaz charge for content on their websites. The clever part here is that most of those sites are free, but the bands then have areas that are behind paywalls. For a subscription consumers are given content that takes them even closer to their heroes and includes exclusive offers such as extra tracks, behind the scenes videos, interviews with the band etc. If a brand does have strong enough appeal to consumers it might be able to deliver content in this way. There’s clearly an opportunity for high-end car manufacturers, many of whom have been charging for their printed content for a while. They could potentially charge for online content if their site has more of a club feel with a close relationship to its customers, rather than a more traditional brand website that focuses on pushing messages to consumers.

Another opportunity might be to take a cue from fast growing coupon driven websites and apps like Groupon. Brands could dangle special offers and discounts alongside their editorial as a sweetener for consumers to to pay subscriptions. Another idea might be to mix special features with ecommerce. So for example a supermarket could offer a service which helped customers choose wine to go with a meal that they are preparing and then offer those paying a subscription a significant discount on the bottles they purchase.

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One thought on “Can customer publishers ever charge for online content?

  1. Depending on how you look at it brands have were charging for content up until fairly recently. Specifically I am thinking of mobile content, ringtones, games etc… e.g text 88888 to get your Coke ringtone charged at £1.50….. What is interesting is this has shifted over the last few years from mobile content/campaigns run as a profit generating centre to zero’ing that cost to the consumer. Of course why (some) people were willing to pay for content a few years ago and aren’t now is an interesting question.

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