Native Content

Considering the Impact of Digital First

MIT is taking the lead recently, promoting a concept called “Digital First.” On the subject of Digital First, Jason Pontin, editor in chief of Technology Review, an MIT publication, is quoted as saying: “Henceforth…we’ll publish nothing first in print…We feel we can better serve our various audiences on electronic platforms…We can create more beautiful and interactive experiences, and create higher-value and unique advertising opportunities for agencies and their clients.” What I found refreshing about the idea of Digital First content is its dissociation with print. Distinct from, and neither secondary nor tied to print, native digital content can exist as a new and unique channel. A brave new digital world of native digital content is born with new opportunities for content providers as well as advertisers.

Enter the Paywall

Like any new frontier, unclaimed property will inspire the entrepreneur in any of us to place a stake. The paywall, a business model that proposes to charge for content on the web, has been gaining acceptance over the past year, thanks in part to the decline in newspaper and magazine revenue. The all-or-nothing paywall model used at The Wall Street Journal and The Times of London will charge for all content; the metered model will charge for only some content. For example, on The New York Times or Financial Times websites, free access shuts down after a certain number of articles per month. It is only a matter of months before trade publications like JAMA start metering.

Same Brand, New Content

Having enjoyed reading content on the web for free for many years, I originally rejected the idea of the paywall. These same content providers attempted to charge for content but failed during the earlier migration of content to the Internet in 2001. But as the concept of Digital First develops, the vision of new and exciting (interactive) content, replacing recycled “migrated content” may be worth paying for. Katelyn Watson, senior manager, Internet marketing at Shutterfly, agreed: “You know people are paying for a subscription, and you may even have access to data that tells you more about them. The quality of the inventory behind the paywall and the price an advertiser is willing to pay is probably better because of that,” she said.

Freedom From Advertising (We hope not!)

A recent survey by eMarketer indicates that 90% of readers who are willing to pay for content expect to find no ads on the other side of the paywall. If readers don’t reject ads altogether on paid content,  they may be more empowered to determine what advertising they want and how much they want. Or paid content could dissuade readers from reading content online, altogether. “If a consumer is paying for premium content and feels their information is being used to bombard them with ads, that’s going to make a bad situation worse, especially among people who already resent paying,” said eMarketer senior analyst Paul Verna.

Time will tell as the concept of Digital First continues to unfold. As an editor, with only basic knowledge of marketing, native digital content (under the umbrella of Digital First), can provide a new channel for both content providers as well as advertisers. Unique, native digital content can optimize a brand by retaining existing customers and attracting new. Henceforth, revenue.

“Having a paywall opens up more opportunities for advertisers, for example, the ability to sponsor one-time access to the site on a cost-per-engagement basis. This makes for a much more robust and engaging brand experience than traditional banner advertising,” concluded Watson.




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