Every man and his dog, if he works in digital media, has an opinion on this one. Pay walls will, or will not, save newspapers, magazines, books and any other form of printed word. E-readers, iPads and digital paper is, or is not, the saviour of the free press. So, why shouldn’t I wade in here? I may as well be shouted down by those who think that paper has, or hasn’t, got a future.
And so as not to be sidetracked, I’ll repeat my first prediction that pay walls will lead newspapers and magazines into a better digital world (which may, or may not, save their business models in the long run).
My second prediction is that pay walls will be removed after – for arguments sake – twelve months.
In my end of year predictions I suggested pay walls would be good for advertising because an engaged, paying audience is, generally, attractive to advertisers. And it’s far too early in the year to be retracting such suggestions so I’ll be sticking with it. But, upon further reflection, I think there will be a second advantage to short term pay walls and it’s not the pay bit that’s useful but the wall itself; the act of registration and identification that will aid newspapers’ business models.
The subscription money may – or may not – be insignificant. But in a world where advertising is highly targeted to us as people, be that by our tracked behaviours or the things we write – or the games we play -in social media, knowing more about audiences is becoming a necessity to deliver advertising online. But most media organisations don’t know much about me as a user at all. I read anonymously with only an ip-address acting as a proxy for who I am.
But look at the market they are playing in. According to Hitwise, getting on for 6% of all UK web visits are to Facebook. And Facebook knows lots about me because I tell them in all my interactions on a daily basis. Google accounts for nearly 9% of all visits which, while admittedly being search-based (i.e en route to somewhere else) is still giving them tremendous insight into my behaviours.
Pay walls will start to give newspapers a better insight into their audiences and with that data they’ll start to be able to attract much more highly targeted media. Once that data is put to use newspaper will realise they need to tear down the walls to grab a big audience but those people will start to be given reason to identify themselves so that advertising can be targeted properly. And then another of my predictions will come true: it’ll be all about the data.
It is for that reason that I think pay walls may save newspapers and magazines.
I also predict personal jet packs are the future of transportation by 2011.