Paid content – Accenture bets on subscriptions, and so do we.

Paid content – Accenture bets on subscriptions, and so do we.

by K. V. Rao


Will consumers pay for online content? Of course they will and they already do. Look at the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, even Netflix. At Zuora, we’re a bit weary of the over-reaction that occurs when companies announce planned paywalls. Business models are good things.


Paying for something that was once free might not be our first choice, but the free rides are over. Internet advertising spend continues to go down – the industry lost another 5.3% or $10.9B in the first half of 2009 – and online publishers continue to struggle with audience numbers. Content companies finally realize that they need business models and we, as consumers, need to accept that there really is content that we are interested in and will pay for. The sad truth is, if we don’t pay for what we want (like local news), it may very possibly cease to exist.


Rupert Murdoch made big waves when he said News Corp would start charging for all content. When I look back at other announcements made throughout 2009, I’m not so sure why everyone was so shocked at Murdoch’s plans. More and more companies like Hulu and the recently announced magazine consortium, including publishers News Corp, Hearst, Time, CondeNast and Meredith are putting wheels in motion to charge for content in the coming months.


As well, throughout the year, there’s been growing evidence that supports the fact that consumers will pay. Two surveys that stand out to me are Accenture’s Global Broadcast Consumer Survey from earlier in the year and the recently released survey by Boston Consulting Group.


Accenture’s findings highlighted the fact that subscriptions will likely reign supreme (we like that!). Accenture says “despite the downturn in the global economy, consumers revealed an increased willingness to pay for different types of programming.” Folks in every age group preferred subscriptions over pay-to-play. Accenture concluded “subscription service content appears the most resilient to the economy, as its consumption shows no signs of being hit by a drop-off in consumer spending.”


BCG’s survey found that consumers were more likely to pay for certain types of content, specifically news that is:


  • Unique, such as local news (67 percent overall are interested; 72 percent of U.S. respondents) or specialized coverage (63 percent overall are interested; 73 percent of U.S. respondents)
  • Timely, such as a continual news alert service (54 percent overall are interested; 61 percent of U.S. respondents)


In conjunction with what kinds of content people would pay for, they also told BCG they’d be willing to pay $3/month in the United States and Australia and even $7/month in Italy.


For example, based on BCG’s findings, an American online publisher with a relatively small monthly readership of 30,000 readers could bring in close to $100K in revenue via paid content. That’s money that wasn’t there before…not bad.


What this says to me is there are content delivery and subscription models that will work for everyone – content providers and consumers. Freemium, pay-as-you-go, usage-based pricing, recurring subscriptions, ad revenue. There is something for everyone and at Zuora, we’re confident there is a solution. We just need some time to work it out on the business side.

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