In my digital first universe, such as it is, a premium business model for journalism just doesn’t include paywalled news.
Instead, news lovers should be enticed with a fuller experience of what drew them in. News, for a news publisher, is the equivalent of ‘content marketing’ for a normal business. It’s not something you ask users to pay for; it’s what makes users favour you with their attention.
However, I’d love to pay for access to a premium news site. News publishers must rethink how they convert news junkies into premium subscribers.
Examples of premium-only features for “news lovers”
Premium community for news lovers — The future of online news must attract “news lovers” (news consumers who craves a deep and total news experience1). The value proposition should include many (if not all) of the following features for premium-only users:
Premium community for business accounts — There are also many brands who loves news. If signing a premium account is hassle-free and gives awards all employees premium features, the value for a brand could be substantial. Here are a few examples of a better news experience for business accounts:
Prerequisites for a successful premium business model
Free news — All basic editorial content (the news) must be free and not paywalled. The premium offering is focused on features extending and deepening the news experience.
New ad model — The primary purpose of ads is to drive conversion of freemium users to premium and the secondary purpose is to allow premium business accounts to place programmatic ads.
Aggressive conversion objectives — The future of online news must learn to convert freemium users (news readers) to premium users (feature users) at a competitive level which means converting 1% of all unique visitors at a minimum2. This is a far cry of what the industry is capable of today.
New KPIs — Success should be calculated via a) growth of premium users (acquisition) and b) churn of premium users (retention) instead of free content reach and ad views.
Partner collaborations — Besides from offering premium business accounts programmatic ad placements, priority business partners for editorial collaborations should be managed by key account managers.
The future of online news is provocative for publishers
Why isn’t anyone adhering to a true premium model for news? This type of business model seems to be provocative for most traditional news publishers. As gatekeepers, they’ve been enjoying a traditional role of having passive news consumers. They’re not used to giving their readers so much power over their news experience.
Another aspect to consider is that news publishers are used to existing side-by-side with advertising, but they’re not used to offering business-to-business type services. The former is regarded as ‘normal’ while the latter is still being considered ‘ dangerous’.
A third consideration is that most news publishers are homeschooled in traditional publishing and they haven’t really been exposed to high-level online business models in highly competitive areas like e-commerce, fashion, or enterprise software.
For a more in-depth look at the relationship between journalists and PR professionals, download (in Swedish) our thesis Strategiska Nyheter (Christiansson/Silfwer 2002), winner of the 2003 PRECIS Award and the 2003 DIK Scholarship.