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When it comes to online content, consumers by and large prefer to pay for it in attention rather than currency. As a result, it's no surprise that far more publishers have built successful ad-based business models than paid content business models.
Advertising, of course, usually isn't a path to easy money for publishers. Yes, advertisers love the internet, but digital still accounts for a minority of total ad spending, and advertisers generally pay less for digital ads than traditional ads.
Publishing may be a tough business all around these days, but thanks to the internet, there are more publishers than ever.
Many of them won't survive, of course. And the ones that die won't just be traditional publishers that fail to adapt to the internet; there are plenty of digital publishers making potentially fatal mistakes too.
Despite the hype, tablets are still most accurately described as a 'niche' market. But that market is expected to grow really, really fast.
That's according to a study (PDF) conducted by the Online Publishers Association (OPA) and Frank N. Magid Associates, which sees 54m Americans owning or using tablets by early 2012, up from 28m today.
The iPad is a source of hope for many traditional publishers. Which explains why publishing moguls like Rupert Murdoch are investing lots of time and money into the tablet device.
But not all iPad strategies are created equal, and one of Murdoch's newspapers, the New York Post, may have the dubious distinction of executing the dumbest iPad strategy yet.
That strategy: in an effort to get readers to pony up for the newspaper's $6.99/month app, block the Safari browser on the iPad from accessing content on the nypost.com website, content that's freely available via any other browser.
Newspapers need help anywhere they can get it, and the Audit Bureau of Circulations is trying to help. Recently, it updated the rules it uses to calculate newspaper circulation.
One of the changes: free copies given to local schools and newspaper employees are now counted.
That should help, right? Apparently, it's not that easy. Despite the Audit Bureau of Circulations' good intentions, newspaper circulation in the U.S. continues to decline.
Faced with the reality that viable businesses require revenue, more and more newspapers and magazines are erecting pay walls on their websites.
But paid content isn't a panacea, and it's far easier -- and more comfortable -- to erect a pay fence. Case in point: the New York Times, whose new pay wall features enough holes to fit a truck through.
The internet has popularized the freemium model like no other channel, but building a successful business on this model can be quite a challenge.
One company that has succeeded: Spotify, the Swedish company that has become Europe's most popular music streaming service.
Google has accomplished a lot in the mobile space thanks to its mobile operating system, Android, but when it comes to building a platform that developers want to develop for, Android still lags behind Apple.
Unlike Google, Apple has thrived at building an ecosystem in which consumers not only use applications, but purchase them.
One of the most storied news dailies, The New York Times, has been talking about a pay wall for well over a year. Like most newspapers, times are tough, and to survive and thrive, new sources of revenue must be found. For obvious reasons, subscriptions are one of the most appealing potential revenue sources.
Yesterday, The New York Times finally pulled the trigger and announced that it will be launching a paid subscription model later this month.
Some publishers believe that Apple may hold the key to a profitable future. Thanks to the success of the company's iPad, for instance, there's a lot of excitement amongst traditional publishers who have seen their revenue from 'old' channels like print plummet. Some publishing moguls, such as Rupert Murdoch, are so excited that they're investing tens of millions of dollars in iPad publishing.
But previously, there was a huge barrier: a lack of an Apple-sanctioned solution for selling subscriptions from within Apps. That solution came yesterday, and it offers some things publishers will probably love, but a few things publishers will likely hate too.
Yesterday, News Corp. made what many publishing executives hope will be
one of the most important announcements in the annals of digital
publishing: the launch of the much-anticipated iPad publication, The
But while subscribing to The Daily is probably accurately described as 'affordable' at 99 cents a week, or $39.99/year, producing the publication isn't. News Corp. has confirmed that its investment to date is already a whopping $30m, and that The Daily will have a weekly overhead of $500,000.
Media executives around the world are holding their breath. Rupert Murdoch's bold and risky bet on the iPad is on the way. The ultimate hope: it will prove that the iPad is a viable platform for profitable content distribution. A big part of the 'profitable' part: paid content.
But media executives might not want to hold their breath for too long. According to research firm Knowledge Networks, consumer expectations on the iPad look a lot like consumer expectations on the internet.