Want to Charge for Digital Content?
3. Develop customer-oriented offers.
The reader as a potential buyer must be the focus of the publisher's attention—much more than they were in print-only times. Yet all too often the reader is regarded as an unknown, and this is one of the biggest problems in publishing.
In a print-focused world, there was only one version of the magazine or newspaper. With online media, however, various customer segments can be addressed with targeted offers. Due to the diversity of customers in terms of their willingness to pay, their content needs and channel preferences, customer knowledge and customer segmentation must form the basis of all steps leading to paid content. Publishers can only develop a customer-specific offer (and weigh the cannibalization risks for print revenue) if they know for whom they should customize their paid offers, and what, how, where and when the target group reads (and how much they are willing to pay for it).
A classic (older) newspaper reader, for example, with a print subscription but no interest in an iPad, could be persuaded to subscribe to a print-online package, which offers online access in addition to the print edition. For younger target groups who read only sporadically, but use all channels, the offer could focus on online content and mobile Internet content.
This is no small task. The recent backlash caused by Time magazine with its paid-content strategy (where consumers are offered an abridged version of a story and can only read the article in its entirety if they subscribe to Time or buy the $4.99 app) illustrates the difficult challenge. In its attempt to develop a good, customer-oriented offer that takes full advantage of different content-delivery options, Time ended up upsetting its readers. The magazine's decision to offer certain content pieces only through its print version and iPad app, thereby making them unavailable online (not even available behind a pay wall), caused a great deal of furor. Readers felt pressured to buy a print version (or an iPad and the app) to gain access to content they would be willing to pay for online.