A paid-for model is necessary for the survival of publishers, according to FT.com MD Rob Grimshaw and BBC.com executive VP and MD Luke Bradley-Jones, taking part in a panel session at last week’s AOP Summit at the Business Design Centre in London.
Grimshaw said, “I can’t see how it’s possible to make the pure advertising model work unless you have enormous scale. Publishers have to find other ways of making money.”
He added the FT was exploring flexible payment options, such as charging to access the site per week or per day, as well as pay per view. He said he expects new features of FT.com’s pricing model to launch “sometime in 2010”.
Bradley-Jones said it’s both commercially logical and necessary to move towards a pay model for content. “It’s clear the ad model isn’t enough to support publishers,” he said. “There’s evidence that customers will pay for content, for example, on TV and in magazines.”
Key areas of opportunity include mobile, he said, but also affiliate and ecommerce models, as publishers embrace ecommerce services that sit alongside editorial.
He also said the TV model in the US, where viewers have to pay for niche programming, could be applied to online content.
Dominic Feltham, MD of Reed Business Information, said paid content does work in the B2B sector and is highly profitable. However, he admitted that charging for general information available on other sites won’t be sustainable.
The debate comes a week after the latest AOP annual census said the majority of publishers (70%) already have or plan to have an online paid content model (nma 1 October 2009).