Publishers must move towards a paid-for model if they’re to survive, argued FT.com’s Rob Grimshaw and the BBC’s Luke Bradley-Jones at this week’s AOP Summit
During a session on paid content, Grimshaw, MD of FT.com, said publishers don’t have a choice but to charge for content. “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 said.
He added the FT was exploring flexible payment options, such as paying 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, executive VP and MD of BBC.com, 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 customers will pay for content, for example on TV and in magazines.”
Key areas of opportunity include mobile, Bradley-Jones said, but also affiliate and ecommerce models, arguing more publishers will embrace ecommerce services that sit alongside editorial.
He also highlighted the TV model in the US where users pay for niche TV, arguing the same can be applied to online.
Dominic Feltham, MD of Reed Business Information, said paid content does work in the B2B sector and is highly profitable. However, he admitted offering 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 already have or plan to have an online paid content model (nma 1 October 2009).