The Times is confused this morning about the battle being fought around paid and free content. Dan Sabbagh points out that some papers are trying to make a go of it with FREE – The Evening Standard, Stylist and Shortlist amongst others. Meanwhile, other organisations, (News Corp included) are going down the route of PAID – through Pay Walls and Paid for one off content – the most obvious and visible example this week being the meaningless England Ukraine World Cup Qualifier. Apart from the absurdity of the notion of England’s Football Fans gathering in pubs to watch on their lap tops, this argument, like many around this subject, seems to assume that you can only be one or another.
There are many ways of making money from readers. The most obvious and visible ones are advertising and subscription/newsstand revenue. Other sources, as already discussed, may prove to be better for business in the long term. Newspapers are likely to evolve into highly sophisticated relationship marketing machines. Moves like The Times’s launch of Times+. The Times makes money from this by charging people £50 to be a member, it gains fantastic information about those customers in the process, it then makes money every time that member uses the Times+ card to purchase anything – hotels, restaurants, theatre tickets, flights etc – thus gaining more value by knowing more about those customer spending habits. The value of these customers is far, far, higher than the value of a regular Times reader.
Smart thinking. Most news organisations are actually moving towards a much more sophisticated blend of paid, free and affiliate activity than commentators give them credit for.