Opinion Other

Let's talk about a subscription model for website access

Internet subscription.jpg

We all know print is practically obsolete right? It's a harsh truth. In an age where we are increasingly moving towards the digital, for both cost and practical reasons, the investment in printed media is on a steady decline. We might not need research to tell us what we instinctively know, but looking at the stats released in the PwC Entertainment and Media Outlook 2016 - 20, the slow decline of investment in print media, from books to magazines and newspapers is in stark contrast to the increased investment in digital and internet based media (pg4, “PwC Entertainment and media outlook: 2016–2020 (South Africa – Nigeria – Kenya), www.pwc.co.za/outlook).

It makes sense of course, mobile Internet penetration throughout Africa has increased dramatically over the years with an increase from just 14.6% in 2011 to 44.8% in 2015 (pg5, “PwC Entertainment and media outlook: 2016–2020 (South Africa – Nigeria – Kenya), www.pwc.co.za/outlook). We can find much of the same information more quickly and easily online, and most importantly for many people - for free (bar data charges obviously). 

For many businesses, the cost of print ads, or actually just print in general, is just too expensive, especially when you can spend less on digital advertising (banner ads, Facebook and Twitter advertising, Instagram etc) coupled with extended online reach. In fact PwC asserts that, "Internet advertising revenue is taking an increasing share of the overall advertising market" (pg7, “PwC Entertainment and media outlook: 2016–2020 (South Africa – Nigeria – Kenya), www.pwc.co.za/outlook).

In our current economic climate, characterised by a fluctuating Rand, the ability to reach a large number of people for the least amount of money is becoming a major deciding factor in advertising spend. Anyway, I digress. Is it really as simple as that? Of course not, however we must weight up the pros and cons of not only paid digital advertising, but also revenue models in the form of subscription services. If print media is falling by the wayside – this is particularly pertinent with regards to newspapers – there opens a vacuum left by its departure.

The internet subscription model

So what is the solution? There’s no clear cut model, but across many platforms the subscription model appears to be on the rise. While we’re already accustomed to paying subscription fees for Pay TV and music platforms for example, applying this to traditionally print media (now moving online) is something many people still don’t feel comfortable with. Many news sites such as the New York Times offer a similar model. Pay them a monthly subscription fee and have access to not only all their articles, but depending on the package you choose you also gain access to exclusive behind the scenes content and special events.

Even more prevalent is the increase in apps for mobile devices that provide this content in a more intuitive and interactive manner than a straightforward website, utilising the subscription model coupled with in-app purchases.  

It's all about the content

This model appears to be on the rise however the convenience of access to the information at your fingertips also needs to balance the possibility of alienating customers if the content doesn't justify the cost.

It’s one thing to spend R22 on a newspaper (when did newspapers become so expensive?) when you can physically look at the object and see what you’re getting before you buy, but spending a consistent amount every month for content that may or may not be of any interest to you often makes people a little more hesitant unless they’re completely confident in the quality.

Because let's face it - it's all about the content. Sure you can go and find your content online for free, but the reality is that if the business model is funded (and subscription is the easiest way to do this), then the resources that can go into the creation of said content increases, and of course the quality improves.

More and more people are willing to pay for this, but they have to feel that they are getting value out of it. Ultimately of course, if the cost of print continues to rise due to low demand and rising costs, then the subscription model for Internet access to content will become more prevalent and balance itself out.

How do you feel about an Internet subscription model for your favourite websites?

Source: PwC Entertainment and media outlook: 2016–2020 (South Africa – Nigeria – Kenya)

Pippa: Twitter | about.me / MWEB GameZone: Twitter | Facebook 

Pippa cover photo credit: Tim Hulme

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