Note: this article about cookie death and the alternative to context targeting or marketing is probably the last blog post by kontextR! The reasons are described below.
Hectic activity in the house. As always, you've waited, it won't be that bad. It is! Almost all important projects that should earn money in the future - stopped! Lawyers, hardly available because they are fully booked. The sword of Damocles hovering ominously over everything, the publisher could lose its existence if solutions are not found in time. The deadline, May 25, 2018! The last will be bitten by the dogs! GDPR ...
The decline in the publishing business is also paralyzing
I can remember that experts at various publisher summits of the associations had warned against GDPR or GDPR years beforehand. There the timely dealing with the topic was intensively warned.
Very few publishers had an ear for it. In my opinion, this results from the fact that those responsible in a market that has been under pressure for decades hardly have a head and don't have the time to worry about the future. And rarely money for investments outside of the core business. You then just buy new websites. In contrast to fast-growing industries with integrated innovation DNA.
And when all the other publishing colleagues have the same problem, it doesn't feel so terrifying and threatening either. The individual management failure will then be drowned out in a bulk of general decline in a few years. Fingerpointing would be almost heartless when everyone else slept as well. So innocence through general impotence.
Data collection cookies
Until now, the online advertising and publishing industry assumed that political interference in their business would make life more difficult. With a lot of EU lobbying, attempts are being made to defuse various regulations. Whether GDPR, Consent or ePrivacy. Partly with success. It's “only” political. Ie there is a chance of influencing it. After all, as the fourth power in the state, the media are self-confident and have an influence on the careers of politicians.
Bei HTTP cookies the situation is different. The browser manufacturers are the gatekeepers.
Browser cookies, these small inconspicuous HTTP building blocks, have been puffed up into marshmallows by the advertising industry.
It should be noted that only with cookies can it be effectively traced which user has done what, how, when, where on a website or application. Other approaches to target group matching for advertisements have so far not been convincing or legally questionable.
Google turns the tap off - the users are happy
It goes without saying that personal data has become a political issue in the wake of the data collection rage on various platforms and the sensitization of broad sections of the population. The new kind of usability of the data to refine it through artificial intelligence into valuable informational advantages intensifies the criticism.
And what does a monopoly or an oligopoly cartel do when it is clear that political regulation cannot be averted? What if the room for maneuver narrows every year when you have promised your shareholders "double digit growth" ...? Then yes then the problem will be disposed of! In obedience ahead. Because the battle can be lost, but not ...
To lament about it is idle. Power wants to stay in power. And above all, Google is in charge of the net. The first shock for many website operators came in 2019 when Google forced publishers to set various flags on their pages. This is the only way that Google's Chrome browser can adequately display advertising on the site, ie by “making” cookies. Otherwise all Chrome users will fail for advertising sales.
As a result, some woke up and understood that the cookie death was initiated with a warning shot. The shot came surprisingly from the other, commercial side. Not as wrongly expected by politicians. And Google immediately followed up with the message, "Forget cookies, they are being phased out".
The time has come in 2022! Not only the Firefox browser, which is known for its user-friendly data protection principles, but also Chrome, which will soon have an 80% market share, will send cookies to nirvana. What, how exactly, is still open to Google. An expected candidate for chancellor is also not revealed too early. Otherwise one makes oneself unnecessarily vulnerable and cannot use favorable time windows.
Let me reiterate that Google is not to blame. Firefox as a non-commercial organization is also promoting “cookie-less”. It is quite natural for organizations to act in the interests of diverse target groups to be served. Whether for users, advertising customers or share holders. Assigning blame would only result in publishers remaining inactive in the victim attitude and thus really driving their own downfall.
GDPR & content - one piece of cake against cookie death
Anyone who thinks "we have survived the GDPR, we will burn our employees ad-hoc for a few months as soon as the deadline for the end of the cookies is set" could hear the death bell. In the best case, the inactive publisher is only enslaved in a vassal status of the US dominants in order to be able to finance the publisher with advertising money at all. Google and Facebook have the market advantage that they can obtain the consent of the users in their terms and conditions in order to be able to market further target groups.
The publishing houses and the rest of the advertising industry are left behind and it is no longer in their own hands to avert the end of their own target group marketing.
Most online portals have retired their sales staff or self-marketing after programmatic advertising became a mega-trend. Everything is automated. Make money, optimized. But if a bid auction no longer has any user data, there is no more programmatic. At least most of its forms are a thing of the past. Except for keyword targeting. Google's core business!
What remains? Context Targeting?
From my point of view - should it turn out like this and in the end the cookies as an advertising targeting solution are completely eliminated, as I expect - there are four approaches that can still earn advertising money on websites:
- As in the past, publishers market their categories more or less manually and without specific user targeting. To do this, employees have to be hired, which will be difficult.
- Use of new targeting forms instead of target group targeting, such as semantic or contextual targeting (keywords, sentiment, etc.).
- Marketing of the publisher page through Google, Facebook & Co only! Using technically complex approaches and their value-added offering in their core business, the giants also bring user consent with them. This means that they receive an even larger share of the cake in advertising revenues. Quite apart from the political influence and the reporting.
- As a variant of marketing by the big players, a consortium of publishers or marketers with a uniform user authentication is also possible. Even if, in my opinion, there are no effective incentives. Why should users create an extra account and agree to the data collection in order to often display annoying advertisements. In addition, ePrivacy will foreseeably prohibit publishers from restricting the content offered for certain users. Unlike the ad blocker, where some sites block the content if it has not been deactivated. This strategy is not expected to work!
As soon as it becomes clear in the next few months that the air is getting thin, all market participants will turn to context marketing. Some will wait until 2022, with corresponding consequences.
Hoping that your own marketer will bring the solution is like a suicide mission. Just the uncertainty about target group marketing through user data will bring strategists on the plan to test new approaches.
Corona has shown how painful declining advertising sales can be. The current problem of consent makes it all too clear that things will not get better with user data. Advertisers, agencies, marketers and publishers will learn how advertising revenues can be achieved and effectively played out without spying on customers.
Extra: kontextR it won't exist anymore!
You'd think this article was written to help kontextR-Own SaaS solution - it is a keyword or contextual targeting technology - to advertise. Especially since kontextR solves exactly the consent and cookie problem.
At this point it should be noted that in the near future we will discontinue the business or, if we are lucky, hand it over to a takeover candidate whose technology stack or strategy the software fits into.
kontextR does not act as an advertising marketer himself, which retrospectively is the silver bullet in ad tech, but was never our expertise. There is therefore no perspective to further develop a technology, for example in the direction of a programmatic keyword SSP. The fact that the platform, into which more than € 2 million has flowed so far, including government subsidies and above all private money, stably scaled to hundreds of millions of users ... is free! Because it is not sustainable without a viable business model!
The classic startup dilemma: giving up too early or too late !?
We have therefore decided to found and focus a new startup that the Accessibility in the digital workplace dedicates. To wait for the cookie death and the panic of the publishing and advertising industry to make another cut would also be fatal for a startup like ours.
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Publishers increasingly need your business model target paid content. Especially digital payment models for exclusive content become system-relevant and Question of survivability for the entire publishing industry.
Why? Because that Ad business hijacked by companies like Google and Facebook has been. Just as the newspapers in the early days replaced the advertising business of the barkers and roaming bards. A normal process, but threatening the existence of many content providers.
The way food is Pillar of event events is crumbling. In any case, it will no longer be a decisive investment area for publishers to Corona. For many, only the digital paywall remains. So the limitation of the reader when opening or reading an exclusive content that requires a subscription.
At the end of this article you will find information about ours Digital subscription calculator, which we provide for publishers free of charge. So that you as a publisher Calculate your individual business casewhether a paywall is worthwhile or where there is growth potential.
The ad bookings with publishers break away and then remain at a lower level
Many website operators who have been using digital subscriptions for years have an enormous number of subscription contracts during the Corona crisis recorded.
Nevertheless, FAZ, Sueddeutsche, Zeit etc. sent their employees on short-time work. The reason for this: digital subscriptions have not yet been expanded to the point where they represent the mainstay - perhaps even the only remaining one in the medium term - and compensate for the dwindling advertising business.
But the publishers will have no choice but at least 80% of your strategic efforts towards digital paid content. Whether already with an established paywall or with strong motivation to introduce it soon, everyone is faced with the challenge of scaling the business to a significant extent.
What needs to be considered when operating a paywall?
In addition to the Type of paywall - see the article "Metered model - this is how sizes like SZ-Plus and Handelsblatt premium paid content use" - and the technologies used, it is crucial that to know important metrics and KPIs.
Because if important things are not measured, which would be measurable, this is negligent and management failure!
Therefore, as the responsible publisher and product manager, it is crucial Knowing all relevant parameters or knowing which ones to pay particular attention to regularly is.
Successful publishers become eCommerce shops
To whom for two decades Online metrics from eCommerce and SaaS business models are unknown, such as customer retention rate, CLV, MRR, etc. should not panic, but should also have heard the shot. Everything that is sold digitally is subject to a different order than in print sales.
A publisher who pulls in a Plus article Paywall or wants to let it grow strongly or does not want to lose subscribers again after Corona should get the best online marketers and shop experts into the house for the process development. As employees and consultants.
It's just another world! Just like startups live in a different dimension than established companies. I find the following video from 2011 appropriate to clarify what gap there can be between experiences.
The Paywall calculator for digital plus subscriptions
Values and KPIs for payment barriers are abstract for some. These must also be linked to make the impact on the publishing business assessable.
Therefore, instead of a list of metrics, we provide one Calculator ready to give you an eThe first guardrail gives you everything you need to know when implementing a paywall should. The calculator provides special support Standard values customary in the market. This means that you can learn from the benchmarks what is relevant for your paid content business and what framework your business can move. See briefly Video of the calculator to overview:
Under following Link reach the of kontextR computer provided free of charge. Also interesting for advanced paywall providers. But above all relevant for publishers who want to build and develop the business.
Do you need more?
Some values will appear familiar to the print subscription distributor. In order not to make it too complicated, we have not all considered the metrics for already experienced with paywalls in the online tool.
These include the above mentioned for eCommerce, but also test subscription KPIs, package strategy, etc. Due to the scope, we provide the full calculation on request with advice and an Excel sheet für die individual business case calculation available.
119,622 total, 62 views today
Anyone who offers digital subscriptions as a web publisher always wonders how he does more reach into his paywalls sends. Even if in times like Corona the need for information leads to a lot of traffic and reach is not a problem, then the complaining of the portal operators about strong slumps on the website will not be ignored.
There are several ways to increase the reach of the site. See the "most effective channels". Also offers kontextR with inText links a format to get all the additional reach out of the publisher's own longtail and to direct it to Plus articles.
Nevertheless, I would like to keep one here, especially for Plus subscriptions Sales booster name that only works for mobile: Accellerated Mobile Pages, AMP for short, from Google.
What is AMP?
To put it flax: a publisher allows his articles to be on Google's server. Then Google can provide this content immediately when the user searches Google without having to load it from the portal operator.
The The advantage is clearly the speed and thus user experience. For this, the Extremely slimmed down and "freed" from much loved code.
Strictly speaking AMP a HTML framework. It takes some technical expertise as a publisher to use the technology.
Those who did it swear by AMP for their range gain in general. Even if, of course, you have given yourself back to your potential enemy. But you can comfort yourself, because in this case it's not about the competition in the ad business, but Google just wants to help you and the readers. That's just the way it is, you can't get by with the great and powerful - sometimes a friend, sometimes an enemy.
So if you can't win against your opponent, be like the water and flow around the stones 😉Sung Zu - in a modified form
What does AMP look like for the reader?
Once the reader is on a Smartphone the google search actuated, it receives one Carousel of small thumbnails with texts.
Because Google strongly considers the speed of articles for SEO rankings, of course those will Contents preferred that deposited with AMP are. Because these load the fastest, since they come from the Google CDN.
Benefits for publishers with a digital subscription
This means that Plus articles that are stored in the Google system via AMP not only load quickly for the user, but are also massively promoted by Google.
As I said, only on mobile! Because Google also wants to make sure that Readers with poor internet connection can view the content without much time delay can consume.
For sa lot of new reach into the publisher’s paywalls.
I heard from a well-known publisher that this 50% of subscription sales come from AMP traffic!!! An incredible number. Certainly not easy to copy, but possibly best practice!
Another advantage is that the Reader actively searched for the keywords and then directed into a matching Plus item. The increases the likelihood of subscription conversion considerable - the reader was not casually referred to the topic of the article, but rather appropriate to its search context.
Disadvantage of AMP for publishers
In addition to the above-mentioned market-political dangers and a certain initial technical effort on the part of the site operator, there is also the fact that many technical components of an article eliminated become. At least those that would slow down the page from a Google perspective.
That also means that some solutions from marketers or other content loaded from servers may not be displayed can. Exceptions for certain ad networks have been added, but the To a certain extent, publishers lose sovereignty over the content played and marketing freedom.
If you want to take advantage of AMP's opportunities as a publisher for your digital subscriptions, you will probably find yourself somewhat experience a strong jump in traffic.
Ad marketing options are limited by AMP. But right now for paid content it always applies that little or no advertising is placed here. At least because of the lower page impressions of paid content, ads are not that important.
Therefore a The strategy may be that a publisher only releases plus article URLs in AMP and therefore most of its content owned.
Use something in Germany more than a quarter of AMP publishers. Everyone has to decide politically and strategically for themselves whether this also makes sense for the rest. If you have a motivated technician, it may be worth a test.
119,939 total, 61 views today
This is a personal experience report and self-reflection as an online reader. At the same time, I am the target group for heavy users of news portals. However, surprisingly I only have one payment subscription! Why?
What kind of online reader am I?
What characterizes me is that I read an average of 50 editorial articles a day. Before founding kontextR were also happy to be up to 200. The passion for information was certainly an important reason why I wanted to found a start-up in publishing.
Many, many browser tabs
In addition, I always have a lot of tabs open in the browser, which I then work off at some point - sometimes never. And that's how it feels to me sometimes: after work!
My curiosity, aroused by lurid headlines that I can't help but worry about missing out on important information, creates the inflationary accumulation of unread articles. At the same time, this creates a bad conscience. Everyone knows this who has many books at home that still want to be read. New articles are added every day. Mainly because I regularly browse through various news portals and receive many newsletters with tons of content.
Which tools for efficient reading do I use?
The following list of various tools that I use, mostly as extensions in the Chrome browser:
- to save tabs (Session buddy)
- to save memory with a hundred tabs (The Great Suspender)
- our self-developed chrome extension ZOOM Premium to enlarge the font)
- our also new Content blocker for clearer reading
- for our Link preview to know if it is worth it before clicking
We are constantly building new little helpers for and our readers. If only because parts of the team and I are extreme users. Other tools such as Pocket, Mercury & Co. are recommended. They don't noticeably optimize my performance in order to read even faster and more.
What does this have to do with paid content?
Before almost all of my preferred publishers had used a plus paywall in the past few years and months, I thought that the readers would mostly reject this. Why should you buy an article that you previously want to pay online free of charge and without hurdles? With the immense selection of alternatives on the web!
After all, a lot of digital content is free of charge because the large range of products brings the price close to zero.
But something happened - happened to me. Something in my own psychology that I wasn't expecting:
I am often happy that an article is “paid” so I don't have to read it!
That may sound strange! But it feels like a relief when I open one of the many tabs and see that I don't have to read it at all because I have to pay for it. For more than a dozen portals that I visit regularly, I would never pay 10-30 € per subscription per month. Paid content has managed to minimize the number of tabs and to clear my guilty conscience. Even if I have opened the Plus content, the first few lines are often enough to take the core message with me.
And if I really want to read an article that is behind a paywall, some publishers offer to read articles for free. At least a certain limited number per month before the articles disappear behind the payment barrier - see the article "Metered model - this is how sizes like SZ-Plus and Handelsblatt premium paid content use". Resourceful users solve this “technically” or, if not possible, simply through several email accounts. Where is it written that this is forbidden?
Do journalistic services always have to be paid for?
A journalist's objection may now be that editorial work must also be paid for. I would agree to that. Nevertheless, you need models that are attractive.
With morality you don't do business, but through customer benefits!
Why are there no more illegal music or video downloads today or have become unattractive for users? Because there are platforms like spotify, itunes, etc. that legally make it possible to consume digital assets far better than the free variants could ever do.
This means that publishers need this user experience model so that far more readers become digital subscribers. I have an approach to this in the article "At some point there will be an "Amazon Prime Press" for paid content"Described.
Nevertheless, I've been a Plus subscription customer for a few weeks now
Corona makes it possible. As an entrepreneur, I am very interested in trends and how you can use them. So I found a plus article that listed those listed companies that are growing strongly despite or because of the crisis. The first time, and by then I had opened a total of approx. 1000 Plus articles, I became a real Plus subscriber! And I have to admit, the publisher's provisioning process was top. Maybe I'll write about that soon, how to do it right.
Of course, I only have a test subscription first and then it gets really expensive. But digital people like me are relaxed with monthly termination options. Unlike generations before me, who subscribe and who require so much energy to cancel that they prefer to pay, quitting is a well-learned behavior among consumers born after 1975.
This should not be forgotten if publishers are currently offering trial months and are gaining a large number of new subscribers in the crisis. When Corona is over, quite a few subscribers will immediately pull the ripcord. At least if you don't really get regular quality and customized content. This is difficult because the demands are high and the needs of the readers are very different!
Customer loyalty will be the main challenge for publishers. Especially for the newcomers in the payment business, who only set the previous editorial service to “please pay now”. And that without the reader experiencing a quality boost. However, quality generates higher costs for the publisher, so that the margin can decrease critically.
Should you offer Plus subscriptions as a publisher?
From my point of view, a clear YES! Most publishers that will survive are doing this because of plus subscriptions. See "Why publishers should no longer sell online ads, but should instead rely on paid content?"
That is why it is all the more important that it is done correctly at an early stage. I recommend consulting external consultants or ours on request kontextR Business case calculator for plus subscriptions. The attractiveness of a paywall can thus be calculated with a few relevant parameters.
Heavy users like me in particular, who need hundreds of touch points in Plus articles to convert, have to be included separately in a target group analysis. For readers like me, from a critical number of opened paid content, the likelihood of completion is almost guaranteed. Personally, I rate this for my persona at a conversion rate of 0,2% for a national news portal. That means a portal has to go through various Range measures of the publisher generate a lot of traffic to the paywalls. examples for this are
- passanda Links in the texts
- Home page teaser
In my case, that would be about 500 clicks in Plus articles that would make me a customer. Of course, each target group has to be considered separately and it also depends on the content itself. But the message is:
the more readers are sent to the articles with paywalls, the more subscriptions -> traffic * conversion rate = subscribers
For publishers who are already well positioned kontextR PLUS + is an approach for thousands of millions of clicks in the Plus articles. With the Sales calculator a publisher can quickly calculate whether the solution has a relevant contribution to their business.
Some will have thought when reading the introduction, where does it take time to consume so many articles? On the one hand it is my business, on the other hand it has to do with a personal curiosity and thirst for knowledge.
Nevertheless, I would recommend to everyone who is feeling the same to read less! Perhaps then really only paid content articles, which hopefully will have an over-galactic quality and relevance to my life.
I have been reducing the amount of content continuously for years. And who knows, maybe through “digital detox” I will get to the point of not wanting or having to take in any more information - just simply being.
106,571 total, 12 views today
Almost all digital assets have one thing in common: in the end there are fewer than a handful of players Offer the entire content world with a € 9,99 subscription. Whether spotify in the music business, netflix for videos, etc., as soon as content from users almost only wants to be used digitally, it's all about User experience and thus a competence area outside the publishing houses.
User experience is the crucial Achilles heel
For publishers' premium paid content, an optimal user experience means that
- User only one account have and not dozens
- of Price is right and affordable for more than 80% of people
- mix the Offer through extreme diversity is marked
- to User data content completely tailored are on the consumer
In the digital business, “the winner takes it all!” Always applies in the long term. Ie the Market power of a platform gets so big that even the formerly big publishing players have to subordinate themselves over time.
The market economy reasons for a platform winner:
- Network effects
- Zero cost for infinite digital copies
- Financial power
Unlike in the manufacturing sector, where a product has to be manufactured with material, the copy costs money. And the state, too, cannot and should not help publishers with taxpayers' money, as this will only end up disrupting innovative capacity and dangerous court reporting for democracies.
When are publishers about to be dominated?
If you look at the content that is mainly in digital demand, this is
- (Audio) books
- Online article
It is striking that in all digital domains conquered there are only monopolies or at least oligopolists who have customer ownership (!).
But not yet in the publisher-Editorial content market!
Why have the publishers not yet been overwhelmed by Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. and brought under their own roof?
In some cases this has already happened! On the traffic page with Google News and SEO in general. Hardly any publisher can get past it without harming itself! On the advertising side, the platforms have already taken over the advertising business.
The last bastion is still standing: the content is still on the publishers' servers. Efforts have already been made by Google with AMP and Facebook with instant articles. But this doesn't feel like a risk to publishers. Google pays these hundreds of millions annually through the Google DNI program for beautiful new journalistic projects. It is a clever way to buy yourself free from bad press! And Facebook has dropped out of publishers for strategic reasons.
So everything is fine?
I would say no! It's just the question who has the staying power, the publishers or the platforms. The answer is obvious. And when special events occur in society and the economy, the situation changes quickly.
A look into the past
Who were they biggest winner of the dot-com bubble? Google and Amazon! After that there was no more competition and the market power rose immeasurably. For example, Amazon could simply add hundreds of thousands of eCommerce startups to the Amazon marketplace and explode the range and added value for users. Not to forget, the many founders released, as well as the employees who are now the best trained for eCommece technologies, were now on Amazon's payroll at comparatively low salaries in order not to be unemployed.
Every crisis creates winners ...
but far more losers. My prognosis is, therefore, that most publishers will experience an unprecedented downfall in the coming recession. The Ad Business is leveled that Digital subscription the still saving anchor. Many will welcome a white knight who will let them into their castle. Of course not the subscription top dogs like the New York Times or a South German. They will defend themselves against it to the last by any means.
And it will not be an unknown playerwho plays the savior. Because to be a winner, you have to be successful and dominant in the digital business.
It will be amazon!
The US giant is the most promising candidate. As soon as the opportunity arises, Amazon will strike. Until then you will practice almost meditative restraint and denials.
Because the reason for the attack, which has not yet occurred, is a special feature of publishing: journalists can spoil your business in the actual core market: by writing one down if you feel attacked. Every politician feels this power. That is why timing is always important. Imagine that the Thuringian state parliament was elected in the corona crisis. It would not have been a historic event.
A company like Amazon knows that. It only has to wait until the opponent has been economically shot, other issues set the agenda and consumer demand is almost forcing entry into the market. The resistance of the journalists will fall on deaf ears among readers who are also consumers of an extremely popular because customer-friendly and alternative company like Amazon.
Tactically, the Amazon attack begins with the permission of publishers - as always selected first - to upload their content to Amazon. Ie text articles on product descriptions, tests, etc., which then also help to increase affiliate sales. The commissions then benefit the publishers. Thus, Amazon will first of all increasingly motivate the web portals to enter the Amazon realm, which are well-known and publish product-related.
What happens if there is an “Amazon Prime Press”?
Whether within Amazon Prime or more likely as a parallel service like Audible, the service for Amazon customers will be unbeatable:
- Paid content as a flat rate
- now Spot price
- von allen major publishers
- on the whole world
- alone with existing Amazon login and familiar payment modalities
- with a Recommendation system
- uniform, UX-optimized front ends in the form of apps, in kindle, etc.
This offer must come sooner or later because it is mandatory Added value for millions of users. It is simply a market mechanism with convergence!
Ultimately, whether a company like Amazon buys a startup like that, as it did for Lovefilm for Amazon video or as it did for Audible, is only a strategic time-to-market question.
Is there no other scenario?
Theoretically yes, but rather unlikely. There are already payment solutions that go beyond the horizon of a publisher.
Because what will not prevail in the long term is that there are thousands of paywalls and thousands of publishers.
Startups like Blendle or Laterpay would begin to offer solutions that, when concertedly expanded, go beyond the wallet gardens of the individual publishers. This would enable readers to consume paid content across a single account.
It is not realistic that online users will pay for many individual digital subscriptions at the same time. It's just too expensive and at some point you don't have the time to get the money back in the form of read articles. There is therefore a finite amount of potential subscribers available. I estimate that in Germany 25% would fundamentally take out a publishing subscription. But that also means that the many publishers have to share the cake. As a result, the number of publishers will decrease significantly.
Alliances would be an approach
However, it seems like they are Publishers again want to do everything themselves. Startups in publishing can sing a tiresome song about it.
Even in this phase, it is probably the best medium-term strategy to go alone, because as a publisher you can test various payment models and calibrations more quickly.
The publishing DNA has never wanted models from external providers to be put on, which unites the interests of many in a lowest common denominator.
This also has something to do with the self-image of freedom of expression and diversity. Unfortunately, it's also the sore point that can bring the industry down.
Those who do not cooperate and stick together will be overwhelmed at some point.
As in marketing, insight could still mature in some countries Publishers are teaming up again to develop a comprehensive digital subscription. In my view, however, they lack the technology, quick decision-making processes and solidarity. Similar to the EU, no economical country wants to help the lax weaker ones. But far worse:
Even in an artificial alliance, publishers don't really want to work together and only have to do it out of necessity. Bad conditions to survive against digital gods.
It is therefore only a matter of months or years for me, but definitely in the 20s of this century that it was a Superior for editorial-paid content.
The open question is only what the service will be called?
"Amazon Press","Amazon Premium Articles","Google News Plus","Google Articles", .... Or will it still be the "Paid content alliance"?
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As soon as online publishers discover "paid content" as a business model for themselves, the question arises what exactly the payment barrier should look like? After all, you don't want to scare away your readers and experience drops in page impressions. This, in turn, would have a strong impact on the number of advertising plays and thus ad sales.
Various paid model approaches are available to website operators. Whether the printed newspaper as ePaper, a hard paywall for all online content, only pay after use as with laterpay or the metered model ..., there are various possibilities and combinations in the room.
A lot has been tried out over the past ten years and certain successful models tend to crystallize. Based on the South Germans with their SZ-Plus subscription offer und dem Handelsblatt online subscription I would like to show how it can work. Knowing well that these platforms are constantly evolving. It should also be noted that every publisher is different. But you can always learn something from the successful ones.
The setup of the South Germans for Plus
The process and structure should be very similar to that of Spiegel.de. Stefan Plöchinger, who was instrumental in building the subscription business at SZ, was obviously poached by Spiegel to adapt exactly the recipes for success there.
The following setup now identifies the subscription funnel to win new SZ-Plus subscribers:
- always free (News) articles
- optional free Item - in the metered model with a value of approx. 10
- always plus paid items
As far as I can tell, the SZ editorial team is encouraged to do every editorial Label articles according to this categorization. With a value, for example 1-3.
The News article would be flagged with a "1" in the CMS. Especially when the "fast content", for example DPA news, can also be read in many other places, it makes little sense to ask for money for this poor journalistic quality. This can scare readers off and the publisher may lose page impressions, which are essential for advertising bookings and sales.
There are also articles with the Mark "2", which is optionally free even if there is a higher editorial performance behind it. This is very important for a provider like Sueddeutsche, because it is a general interest publisher for as yet not subscribers Position the quality medium got to. The tactic here is dTo provide readers with a limited number of articles free of charge without Paywall. Within a certain period of time, the default is one month. In the SZ is the metered value at approx. 10. This means that a reader can read 10 articles of category “2” completely and freely, before all of them marked with “2” are only accessible with a plus subscription. Such an article will be upgraded as a Level 3 article over time and per reader.
A level “3” item is always a Paid content. This includes high-quality, researched information, data journalistic content and stories. These are never assigned to category 2. Usually these plus texts are longer. At SZ, the articles are always "readable". Ie after a few paragraphs, the paywall hides the other text.
Optimization of subscription contracts
I would always recommend reading the text to get to know the content and style of the editor. The SZ has apparently recently shortened the number of free paragraphs before the paywall hits.
This is an example how publishers can optimize sales. There are various options to test your own readers, how much to give them to read Increase conversion rate for subscriptions. A / B tests are important methods here for the responsible product manager.
The same applies to Tests on the metered value. This must be checked continuously. The SZ probably plays with certain variants, for example going down to 8. Always careful, as you mentioned, you don't want to overuse the reach of the website.
Although Traffic from non-subscription customers has become less important in Corona times is. On the one hand, because there is always a lot of demand for information and pageviews explode. On the other hand and much more essential that Reach can hardly be used for advertising. The ad bookings have plummeted by 70-90%. Therefore, right now in the Corona crisis, plus publishers can safely throw themselves on the paid content model and push aside the reservations regarding the advertising business. Most established websites try to capitalize on the situation for new subscribers, which is a valid market economy tool and rewards those who have previously relied on paid content. See, for example, the (Corona) campaign by FAZ +, editorially supported by Carsten Knop in his article "Why we make F + cheaper for you".
What about the Handelsblatt?
The Handelsblatt is currently the metered model value at 2. The publisher was one of the first to start with paid content articles and was able to test the parameters for its readers and optimize them over the years.
As an aside: This early start and know-how advantage is probably also the reason why the Handelsblatt digital subscription is not (yet!) Called “Handelsblatt Plus”. As is well known, it is often difficult for “first movers” to adapt to the market convergences that result from the accumulation of successful late bloomers.
The Professionalism at Handelsblatt can also be recognized from the fact that they use every opportunity to link readers to other articles. Whether via individual newsletter offers, the follow-tag system with which, as a registered user, you can only display the articles for which you are registering, and especially those many inText links in the articleswhich the editors set manually - as can be seen in the screenshot above.
The fact that this can also be done automatically and in a widely scalable manner in order to massively increase the range in the paywalls is also the approach with kontextR PLUS +.
Conclusion on the metered model
In my view it is Metered-Paywall is a nice opportunity for many publishers to gently approach the imaginary threshold at which the content should be paid. This can go so far that a publisher realizes that he is introducing a hard paywall everywhere. So there would only be plus items. Precisely because you have gradually reduced the metered value of free articles until it has had a negative effect in some way or not.
Basically, the metered value correlates proportionally to the brand of a publisher, its market position and thus the price for a plus subscription.
Special interest portals will tend to have lower metered values, like general interest pages.
Problems with the model
Finally, it should be noted that that Metered model with cookies works. Even if 1st party cookies are less critical in terms of future viability - see also the article "Why publishers no longer sell online ads ... ". In this way, users can set more and more granular settings in their browsers as to whether they also accept this form of user data collection. If not, these users can be difficult to track.
A tick on the metered model can also in private or incognito mode of various browsers his. Theoretically, the metered value can thus be shifted infinitely by the reader. This is technically partially solvable and, in my view, not (yet) a serious problem or reason not to test the model. Because most readers do not know such technical subtleties. This is the only way to explain the relatively low ad blocker rate of 20-25%. Low, because users who are familiar with almost all block advertising. This explains the ad blocker rate on game portals of over 80%. The kids just check it out!
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The decline of publishing houses is evoked for three decades. Partly rightly, because print sales are steadily declining and, at the same time, comparable sales are not being generated in the digital business. The question arises whether there is still any salvation at all? And if so, is paid content the savior? Or is it a fairy tale who, like the head of Bertelsmann once said at DMEXCO about the “web failure of the web” and identified the free culture as the reason for the misery?
Complexity through corona
For ten years I have been working as a software provider for publishers as my customers, both for a group and as an entrepreneur. My second passion is complexity. In the course of this I deal with the so-called Kübernetik with complex systems. And related to Corona it is a newly networked system quality. A change of times for the publishers. Because even if the online traffic figures and the reputation of the portals increase significantly due to the reporting - it will also weaken again - the advertising revenues will never be as high as they used to be.
What's happening now?
On the one hand, many experts fluctuate between concrete demands as to what should be done against Corona, accusations of what has been done wrong by politics, etc., and on the other hand, the unassailable position that you cannot know what to do and what still happens.
That is right and wrong at the same time. Because there are things that, at least in terms of time, cannot be determined. On the other hand, all have existing, and at least reasonably stable, systems inherent pillars. Otherwise they would not exist! For example, the human organism has an immune system that fights off viruses and germs attacking from outside. It even protects the whole person for future attacks and makes them robust. This does not mean that every human being survives, but humanity is largely secured. The paradox is that the system is almost always more robust if it has been attacked several times in the past and was able to keep the knives sharply ground for defense.
What does this mean for publishers?
Now a virus hits an unhealthy industry. A massive threat to existence. The first question that arises is that there are these strong, survival pillars in publishing. Which can withstand the storm? The answer immediately: yes! People need a stop. You need information. From secure locations. Ie Quality and response time make journalism rock solid in the surf. However, there is already the “but” in this. Not every (online) publisher, newspapers and magazines, can deliver quality and speed at the same time. Not to mention, few have Reputation, the fire, the information authorities in and after the crisis, to be the first point of contact for readers.
Who survives in the publishing market?
It will now happen even faster, which would otherwise have taken longer - albeit inevitable. One accelerated death in the publishing scene. While, as is usually the case in crises, around 17% will be winners, there tend to be two thirds or more real losers.
In my view, it is now almost systematically determined who will survive and who has a good chance of being among the winners. There is always a differentiation into what I call in more mature markets Gucci-Prada vs. Hit textile discount system. That means the middle belly disappears. The small consumer buys from the more expensive Dallmayr like the Aldi. But hardly with a provider in between. At least not when there are special criteria, such as location advantages.
In terms of the publisher market, that means this Bathtub curve indicates that the number of providers will decrease significantly. On the edges there are mainly two types of publishers what is left: the news engines and the paid content publishers.
What are news engines?
These publishers are “machines” in the truest sense of the word, because hardly any people work there. These technology-driven portals are characterized as follows:
- minimal Cost structure, as there is no editing of their own, but not using self-created content - e.g. through content syndication
- maximale Technology power in the area of machine learning / AI and user data analysis and use
- automated marketing via programmatic advertising and marketing by external providers
- existing, broad-based Brand as a news portal
A representative here who will survive in the long term is MSN.de. Focus.de or t-online.de also have opportunities here, but will not be recognizable in a few years.
Paid content publisher
The second type of publishers that will survive are numerically the larger number. They are Print and online publishers who successfully sell paid content in the form of subscriptions. The only thing that will survive is who can steadily increase the online subscriptions for so-called plus-pay content over the years. This can succeed for providers with the following setup:
- with a strong brand, such as the South German, Zeit, Spiegel, Stern, etc.
- im Special interest area Represent well-known names today and don't have too much competition in their niche
- Local newspapers targeting critical readers have a high credibility and relevance for the population outside the big cities in the catchment area
- Publishers who are more concerned with eCommerce and funnel management than with marketing. The publisher must completely do that Let the business model mutate into an online subscription shop. That means with all KPIs that are so far unknown to publishers and that require new tools and processes.
The middle belly has a hard time
Many publishers had tried to build up new pillars in the last few years to try to compensate for the dwindling sales. Some also act as event organizers, which will now be on the brink of Corona - at least in the near future. Others rely on product shop offers for various products that work rather poorly than right.
How to become a paid content provider?
Now a publisher in this dilemma could come up with it and simply say:
No, I don't want to be a news slinger, high-tech is not our thing, we are seasoned journalists and always want to deliver quality! Then just paid content ...
But attention: Successfully turning a publisher into a paid content provider is not trivial and is not something for everyone. Sure, if there is a chance at all, then probably for most with digital plus subscriptions. This does not mean to print the print version as ePaper. This is old hat, although for some a small source of income.
As in the movie "The Founder“The founder of the McDonalds empire Ray Kroc is told in one scene:
You are not in the burger business with McDonalds, but in the real estate business! "
Paid publishers need the following strong mind change:
Publishers are no longer a platform for ads, they are in the online marketing business for digital assets.
These digital assets as paid content can now be a smorgasbord of:
- Plus items with paywalls for premium content
- Video and live courses - an as yet undiscovered market for publishers from my point of view!
What should a publisher be able to do, but what should be done by external providers?
In my experience there is A disease for publishers: they always want to do everything themselves. The innovation almost always comes from startups. But if you build everything yourself at a price that is usually x times as high, then these are not only unnecessary costs, but also also undermines the performance of a startup eco system.
As a lecturer at the TU Munich for entrepreneurship and in my Munich founder network, I know dozens of startups who wanted to do something for publishers. But everyone I know without exception turn away after a short time or go under if they have trusted the "wrong" target group of publishers for too long.
Of course, there are reasons why publishers only allow a few third parties. Nevertheless, the price seems too high for me to only add and allow external providers if everyone is doing it anyway or the technology is as mature as with Google. Without healthy external small and medium-sized providers who can make a good living from it to be there for your publishers, innovation and thus the Viability of an entire fallow land is jeopardized.
My recommendation to the publishers, and I say that independently as a vendor for publishing software, is that they have one Invest a minimum percentage of the annual budget in external startups. And not as financial investors or with ineffective accelerators, but rather as real and well paying customers of these little innovators.
Every growth industry cultivates its start-up scene by becoming sustainable customers, with patience and constructiveness without any pretensions to superiority. Because:
An industry in decline has the self-destructive quality of not promoting external positive forces and not taking advantage of opportunities.
Anyone who wants to become a news engine now or after Corona has to invest money in AI developer professionals. These can be built up internally, but must be supported by external consultants. The content must be purchased from third parties or generated automatically - e.g. with robotic journalism.
Those who want to find their way to a paid content publisher should get outside online marketing experts who have successfully promoted larger shops. These include conversion specialists, SEA agencies, technology providers for paywalls, etc.
Who is interested in an exchange on the topic, the I offer a personal interview. Just do it here. register for an appointment!
Stay tuned, it will be difficult, but not impossible!
Chris Eberl - CEO & Founder kontextR GmbH
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