Cover Story: Making Content Pay
Few things have received more buzz in publishing recently than the notion that publishers need to start charging for content online. While this conversation has proven to be somewhat cyclical in the years since the advent of the Web, ebbing and flowing with the relative success of bringing in ad revenue, there is growing evidence that the twin factors of changing consumer perceptions (iTunes and, more recently, Rupert Murdoch have put paying for digital content firmly on the public's radar screen) and sheer economic necessity may finally have forced publishers to abandon the idea that their product can be supported solely through advertising, no matter how targeted those campaigns may be.
"While online ads are growing, the rich get richer, as it were," Scientific American's Bruce Brandfon notes of the current situation. "Google's share grows, Yahoo's share grows … massive sites get bigger, and the little individual sites are left picking up the crumbs." Unwilling to pad the offerings of search engine giants and content aggregators with little to show in return, a variety of publishers are charging for some or all of their online content. The strategy does entail risks, as page views can initially fall dramatically, but the industry is banking on consumers once again getting used to the idea that valuable content is worth paying for.
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Thanks to the Web, anyone can be a "publisher"—and this can be great if you're looking for live updates on breaking news or a variety of opinions on the best way to grow orchids. For the business-to-business community, however, time spent swimming through oceans of content online is money, and quality, trusted content is something professionals are increasingly willing to pay for. This is the view behind MarketingProfs' approach to offering useful content to marketers online, whether it be webinars, articles, blogs, case study collections, training or research. "We offer our subscribers a guide to what matters in marketing—a beacon of light through the sea of information," says Chief Content Officer Ann Handley.