The future of media, and monetising digital publishing

Richard Britton, CEO of CloudSense
Richard Britton, CEO of CloudSense

CloudSense recently conducted a survey with 4,000 consumers to find out exactly how media is being consumed in the UK and US, in order to provide media houses and publishers with deeper insight into people's views on subscriptions and paywalls.

We spoke to Richard Britton, CEO of CloudSense, on the subject of this survey, and the challenge of monetising online media.

TechRadar Pro: What was the purpose of your recent survey?

Richard Britton: The media industry is in a state of flux. The decline in traditional media consumption in favour of online content is well-documented. However, in general, there is still confusion within publishing houses as to where future revenues will come from. This is, in turn, leading to a lack of strategic direction.

At the heart of the challenge is consumer expectation. Readers, viewers and listeners now want to engage with content on multiple devices from any place and at any time. Yet because they have become accustomed to free online access to information, they are often reluctant to pay for content unless a subscription also offers some added value.

CloudSense talks to customers in the publishing world constantly – so we wanted to hear things from a consumer's point of view. So we decided to develop some tangible proof points around media consumption across two of our largest markets, the UK and the US, to provide insight for ourselves and these customers.

TRP: Were the results as expected or were there any surprising findings?

RB: Considering that in the UK, 88% of those polled don't currently pay for digital media sites and apps providing content such as news, fashion, sports and business, it was surprising that 54% had paid for printed media over the preceding month.

This highlights how consumers attach different values to these two delivery methods and suggests that traditional publishers with print have something to build on when developing multi-channel offerings. This is counter to the perception that all the odds are stacked against traditional publishers and that 'born digital' titles (such as BuzzFeed) have all the advantages.

The difference in the results from the US to those from the UK was also surprising. For example overall, online and TV (as favourite ways to consume media content) are neck and neck. But in the UK, TV remains the favourite option with 74% support, 9% ahead of online. This differential is reversed in the US results, where online consumption has a 9% lead over TV.

TRP: In your opinion, what do these results mean for publishers?

RB: Obviously there is a general reluctance to pay for content and, as a result, an urgent need for publishing houses to find new and compelling ways to change this attitude to sustain their business model.

Traditional publishers need to build on their print reputation, smoothing the transition to digital with cross-media products rather than continuing to promote siloed sales. Some major players have already done this and are reinventing themselves in this way. For example, in the UK, both The Times and the Financial Times now offer 'memberships' for subscribers which give added value incentives such as investment portfolio tools, email briefings, exclusive events, previews and other tailored offers.

TRP: It's well known that the younger generation, or digital natives, increasingly consume news in new ways. How do you think publishers can best keep up with this evolving audience?

RB: It's clear that digital natives are even more reluctant to pay for content than their older counterparts. In the UK, those in the 16–24 age group were shown to spend the least of all on purchasing media content, with 78% spending less than £1 a week.

However, 54% of this age group were prepared to accept advertising around content, suggesting that for them, this will be the best way for publishers to monetise content. The numbers of those who accepted advertising around content decline gradually as respondents get older.

Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.