I didn’t see the whole Peter & Kerry thing coming. My predictions were clearly off, my tea leaves were not telling truths and my crystal ball was cloudy. Still, some things from my 2010 futureology (is that even a word?) moment are true. Digital advertising revenues are up and a few people seem happy about that. But I am not going to tick-off my successes because it only makes you highlight the nonsense I talk at other times. So we continue as if nothing happened. Deal?
Rupert (Murdoch, not The Bear) is pushing ahead with his pay wall idea. I’ve written before about how I see pay walls are good (and not necessarily in the way that you think) and I have discussed why they’re good for advertising. But, thinking today, I realise there’s a key advantage I missed in my previous musings on this matter (my use of the word musings makes my previous posts seem more considered, don’t you think?)
To summarise, I suggested that pay walls will rise and fall for most mainstream publications within a twelve month period. Sites that put up pay walls have an opportunity to understand their users a little more – market research if you will – through the subscriber data they are collecting. Advertisers will like pay walls because the users behind them both value the content they are reading and will be generally more engaged with it.
But I didn’t really talk about us users who sit on the wrong side of the pay wall. Of course, we have options and can go somewhere else for some of the news; and we probably will. But, and this is the key advantage I’m interested in exploring, does the rise of the pay wall re-emphasize the role advertising plays in supporting content? In turn, will that make us more likely to share data with publishers (given proper controls, transparency and disclosure) in a more explicit deal: data supported advertising for free access to content. And not just unobtrusive advertising but premium, targeted advertising that’s sold at a value publisher’s can use to invest in content (and, yes, make their profit margins).
Controlling my identity – and the data (preferences & behaviours) associated with it – is a key stage in delivering the above. Targeted advertising should carry a premium as it’s more likely to be put in front of people interested and responsive. Targeting can take many forms, and is probably the subject of another piece of writing, but targeting based on what I tell you as a publisher and/or advertiser (by allowing you to track my behaviour or by telling you directly) should be the most valuable and I would consider trading it for valuable content (again, as long as you had proper controls and were transparent in your use of it). But who do I trust?
Truthfully, I am not wholly convinced by my previous paragraphs. By which I mean I’m not clear if pay walls will re-emphasise the value of advertising in supporting content nor if that will make us more likely to trade data for content. I am not sure if I would trade (but I might). But I do wonder if it will happen and if the so-called advertising eco-system will become so complex that the value is lost.
We have many twists and turns on this road ahead. Publishers (and I mean all content producers here) need to scale their businesses for the new market which for many once large organisations means shrinking. You can’t even begin to talk about profit margins until that point. I’m not sure what that might mean for on-going coverage of Peter & Kerry but I’m sure somebody will have a cheque book for the wedding pictures. I’m hoping for an invite.