Big changes are happening in the publishing industry these days. The future of publishing looks uncertain. As ad blocking rates keep rising, publishers and content creators realize they have no choice but to seek alternative revenue models. Slowly but surely, online newspaper and magazine subscriptions are becoming the new normal.
The long-awaited shift from advertising to a subscription-supported model is finally taking place, and that’s the good news.
The bad news is, however, that consumer habits are slow to change. So used to consuming free content, some people have a difficult time understanding why donations and subscriptions matter.
This is what worries publishers. How long will it take for people to adjust to a subscription- or donation-based approach? What should publishers do now, when ad blocking is already taking over, but the subscription-based model is still in its infancy?
Publishers First Reaction to Ad Blocking
Publishers first response to ad blocking was sheer panic.
Afraid of losing their major source of revenue, some newspaper websites started to cut off site access for ad blocking users. Others delivered an ultimatum: whitelist or pay. Some, publishers from Sweden and France, even created anti-ad-blocking coalitions.
The outcomes left much to be desired.
Not only did websites start to lose readers, but they also realized people could still access their content by going into “reading” mode or switching to private browsing. The lesson learned: ultimatums don’t work. They just don’t.
Publishers Second (Smarter) Response to Ad Blocking
Once the idea of blocking ad-block users failed, publishers came to a conclusion they would need a less aggressive approach. This is exactly why polite pop-ups and banners, asking readers to donate or subscribe, started to show up.
Top news publishers, including The New York Times, Time, The Washington Post, and Wired have accepted the change and understood it is high time to adapt.
The outcomes have exceeded all expectations. It turns out, people are willing to pay for content. Maybe they’ve always been ready.
During the last year, The New York Times raised over $1 billion in subscriptions. According to the newspaper’s officials, this makes up nearly 60% of their total revenue. Take The Wall Street Journal. Last year, the newspaper revealed that nearly half of their regular subscribers are digital. Not impressed? This translates to more than 1 million people. The Washington Post keeps up, too. Their number of digital subscriptions has surpassed 1 million. These are only a few primary examples. Many others exist.
“Ad blocking is already pushing publishers to employing [sic.] other strategies to monetize such as subscriptions and donations. In the future, display ads will still be included in this mix but likely not as a large portion of monetization strategy.”
—Anna Segova, Founder of Alterno Marketing
What a great discovery. Subscriptions work. The future of publishing is bright. Magazines and newspapers no longer need to partner with ad networks to survive. Ad blocking is an opportunity for growth; ad blocking is not a threat.
Challenging the Status Quo Takes Time, Always
Still, there is a long road ahead.
As we’ve said earlier, consumer habits are not fast to change. So far, around half of Americans pay for news (to be perfectly accurate, it’s 53%). More good news is that about 20% of those who still don’t donate or buy subscriptions say they’re likely to start in the nearest future.
While the statistic overall is positive, there are still many people who do not seem to recognize the importance of donations and paid subscriptions. If this sounds like you, let’s talk about why it’s important.
“Publishers have been increasing [sic.] moving away from banners as programmatic has decrease CPM rates. The combination of potentially lower inventory as a result of ad blockers and the price pressure from programmatic will force a move away from banners.”
5 Reasons Why You Should Donate to Media
Funds go directly to the media.
With subscriptions and donations, you pay content creators or publishers, which puts a stop to shady money-allocation games played by third-party ad networks.
When you start to pay, content gets better.
This happens for two reasons. First, once content creators and publishers get stable financial support, they can afford more professionals, better equipment, as well as deeper research and investigation. Second, receiving payments from readers solidifies a publisher’s sense of duty to the consumer. When subscribers are footing the bill, publishers responsibility is no longer divided between delivering high-quality content for consumers and supporting content that drives more ad dollars.
You can focus on content and annoying ads will be less likely to distract you.
Even if you’ve developed banner-blindness (a necessary skill these days), pop-ups, colorful banners, and aggressive ads still mess with your focus and attention.
You build a good habit of paying for what you consume.
It works much like a domino effect. Your first newspaper subscription might feel a bit unusual. But after the subsequent subscriptions, paying for content becomes second nature. Globally positive changes happen.
When you start paying for content, consuming junk information becomes a thing of the past.
When all content is free, it’s so easy to be a victim of information consumerism and junk news. When money comes into play, you start to think critically about which content is worth your investment and which is absolutely not.
A Closing Word On the Future of Publishing
Ad blocking and its rapid pace of development came as surprise for publishers. For years, advertising has been the major source of revenue. It’s no wonder the first reaction to ad blocking was panic and aggression. Yet today, as some top-tier media have already proved, paid subscriptions can work when messaged well. It’s clear that ad blocking should be seen as a catalyst for positive changes rather than a doomsday scenario for publishers.
What do you think? Would you pay a subscription fee if it means access to high-quality, ad-free content?