People inside and outside the media industry are starting to take notice of the value of quality content; content that people are actually willing to pay for.
Hooray! Better late than never, I guess. And yes, this goes out to you late bloomers in the media industry, who are finally getting around to the idea of getting your income – your livelihood – from other sources than an advertising market going towards a CPM of 0.
Anyways, it’s great that the focus is now on how to create content people are willing to pay for. But at the same time, I think it’s valid to mark a point of concern:
I see a lot – especially media people – looking towards popularity numbers to decide, which content is worth paying for, ie looking at page views and different engagement metrics to determine what they need more of in terms of increasing their ability to drive payment direct from users.
I think this concept is flawed. And let me back it up with a couple of examples:
I pay a monthly subscription to Stratechery by Ben Thompson and have done so for years. I pay a monthly subscription to Exponential View by Azeem Azhar. And the only magazine in print, I subscribe to is the Danish magazine on current political affairs, Raeson.
What do all these have in common for me as a paying user:
(1) I can never guess what they are going to put out based on prior history, and it’s perfectly fine, because…
(2) I subscribe for the insights and outcome. Nothing else. And I am willing to pay for that – and continue to do so.
The last point is important. I strongly – STRONGLY – believe that the key to a great content business – streaming services apart which is a totally different ballgame – is knowledge and insight. That you actually know and have a deep, DEEP expertise in whatever it is, you’re writing or even podcasting about.
And this is where the problem risks returning for the regular newsroom. Because in the effort of doing more with less, be fast and always be breaking, newsrooms have lost a lot of that knowledge and insight that was worth something.
At the same time the internet has enabled the sources to have their own voices and charge for that. They have effectively cut out the middle man.
Which is why – despite promising numbers for digital subscriptions – legacy media will find it just as hard to build a sustainable digital subscription business with what they have got than it was with advertising.
Of course I hope, I will be proven wrong.