Publishers respond to Web 2.0 with trend away from paid-for model

Results from the latest Association of Online Publishers (AOP) membership survey, the AOP Census 2006, show that online advertising revenue continues to be the top source of income for most AOP member organisations. The findings also reveal that for the first time in the four-year history of the AOP Census the number of publishers charging for branded, quality content online has dropped, to 37 per cent compared with 63 per cent in 2005.

Display advertising remains the largest slice of AOP members’ income, making up an average of 41 per cent of online revenue. The next most important source is paid-for content, contributing 18 per cent of all revenues. Of that 18 per cent, more than three-quarters (78 per cent) is subscriptions, and 22 per cent is from one-off payments. Sponsorship makes up nine per cent of online revenue.

Turnover has risen by 53 per cent year-on-year for the average AOP member company, with the findings suggesting that advertising has been cemented as the dominant web publishing model.

Forty-four per cent of AOP’s business-to-business publisher members currently charge for online content compared with 34 per cent of those focused on consumer publishing.

An increasing number of member companies appear to have come to the conclusion that they are unlikely to start charging for online content. The proportion saying that they do not plan to charge has risen to 43 per cent, from 30 per cent in 2005 and only 18 per cent in 2004.

For those AOP members that do charge, however, the findings show this can provide a significant chunk of their overall income. More than a third (37 per cent) of those publishers who charge for content earned more than £1m in revenue in 2005 from paid-for content alone; 26 per cent earned more than £5m.

Overseas revenue is now established as an important aspect of many AOP members' businesses. Those who do operate in foreign markets have benefited from growth. Seventy-five per cent of respondents reported that at least some of their online revenue now comes from overseas; as many as 10 per cent now find that more than half their online revenue comes from abroad. The average for AOP members is now 13 per cent (up from 11 per cent last year).

In total, the AOP companies sampled are responsible for publishing as many as 1,828 different titles (online, print and/or other formats). This is up from 1,152 represented last year.

The research was conducted on behalf of AOP independently by research consultancy Fox Insight.

Bill Murray, AOP chairman and managing director of group business information strategy for Haymarket Publishing, comments: "While there remains a strong view from consumers that web content must be "free", the healthy online ad market has probably convinced most publishers that there's little point in sacrificing valuable ad inventory in trying to convert consumers to paying. However, I suspect that within the B2B market and with some of the more interactive, high-value consumer content enabled by broadband, we will see long term growth in the number publishers charging for the best content."


Editor’s notes

About AOP

The UK Association of Online Publishers (AOP) is an industry body representing online publishing companies that create original, branded, quality content. AOP champions the interests of approximately 160 publishing companies from diverse backgrounds including newspaper and magazine publishing, TV and radio broadcasting, and pure online media. Together they publish around 1,828 products and their websites have a combined active reach of 3 billion page views per quarter, reaching of 68 per cent of the internet population. (Source: Nielsen/NetRatings, quarter ending Dec 05).

AOP presents a unified voice to industry and Government, specifically to address issues and concerns relating to all areas of online publishing. AOP publishes original research, hosts forums, conferences and events, covering a range of topics from paid-for-content, subscription models and data protection, through to copyright, content management, new technologies and audience measurement.

The AOP autumn Online Publishing Conference & Awards is its annual industry event and will be held on 4 October 2006. It attracts the biggest names in online publishing to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the industry and celebrate outstanding achievement.

Members include: Associated New Media, BBC, BSkyB, Capital Radio Group, Channel 4, CNET Networks, Condé Nast Interactive, Dennis Interactive, The Economist Group, Emap,, Future Publishing, GCap Media, Guardian Unlimited, Haymarket Publishing, Independent Digital, IPC Media, ITV Online, News International, Reed Business Information, Reuters, Telegraph Group Limited and Which?. In addition, PPAi (Periodical Publishers Association Interactive) retains a corporate seat on AOP board: representing the interests of magazine publishers online.


Charlotte Hanson
immediate future Ltd.
0845 408 2031

Published on: 12:00AM on 5th April 2006