Satisfying Audiences Blog

Satisfying Audiences

In search of a “commerce viability” algorithm: why will people pay for content on some platforms and not others?

26 July 2011 · By Lynne Brennen

A consumer’s willingness to pay for content is different depending on the platform and a mix of several elements, including reliability, verticality, longevity, immediacy and social trustworthiness.

Many of my days are spent considering how to drive consumer value and revenue across a spectrum of news platforms: print, Web, mobile, social and a host of yet-to-be-launched media.

In my experience, each platform has a different “commerce viability” index. Product launches and marketing tests tell us enough to know it varies, but my job would be so much easier if I had a simple algorithm.

The drivers of “commerce viability,” or of a consumer’s willingness to pay for content, can be allocated among the following five attributes. Each attribute is assigned a weight to roughly illustrate how correlated that attribute is to a consumer’s willingness to pay.

Broad reliability of content Vertical nature of content Longevity of content Immediacy of information Social “trustworthiness”
(30%) (30%) (30%) (8%) (2%)

Let's take a look at each platform.

Print newspaper: Most consumers who pay for a newspaper do so because the product offers reliable content that is relevant to a broad community, comes in a relatively durable form and can be read from cover to cover over the course of the day. These qualities of print meet 60% of the “commerce viability” attribute weighting, reinforcing why the print newspaper model is the furthest along in driving consumer revenue compared to other digital platforms.

Browser-based Web sites: Newspaper Web sites have many of the same content qualities, and if a Web site is hyper-vertical in its content, it seems to be even more disposed to driving consumer revenue than more general publications. Web sites satisfy a reader’s need for immediacy of news and information. Unfortunately, in my experience, immediacy alone isn’t valuable enough to encourage subscription or purchase. Being consistent with my math, Web sites meet about 38% of the commerce requirements.

Smartphone access: News and information available on a smartphone suffers from limited real estate, and, therefore isn’t able to drive value from unique or targeted content in a meaningful way. It seems that consumers are even less willing to pay for a subscription to news and information on a phone — possibly only meeting about 10% of value requirements. The primary benefit of providing smartphone access may come from publishers using it as added value to one of the other platforms.

Social platforms: News on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks is embraced by readers because of a new definition of “trust.” A decade ago, the person who read the news on TV or the company that edited and published the news was seen as important in validating information. If news didn’t come from that trusted source, it wasn’t reliable. Today, “trust” is expanded to include one’s friends or other selected advocate — typically not a journalist trained in unbiased news gathering. Unfortunately, social “trust” drives the smallest component of “commerce viability,” between 2% and 10% depending on the content, which explains why few have figured out how to turn social media into an acquisition channel.

Tablets: Interestingly, tablets as a platform seem to possess all four attributes. Of all the digital platforms, tablets seem to come the closest to emulating the print reading experience. Furthermore, many apps allow for the integration of real-time feeds and social media. Given the explosion of tablet subscription commerce among publications that have traditionally charged for digital content as well as those that have not, it would suggest that the algorithm is directionally correct where paid news content on a tablet meets all of a consumers purchase criteria.

Now that I have figured out the algorithm, I’m heading out on vacation.

print article send to friend

blog comments powered by Disqus
About this blog

The Satisfying Audiences Blog aims to reflect print and digital content not just across platforms but extending into consumer events, non-news-related subscriptions and other audience vehicles for newsmedia companies. This blog written by INMA members is dedicated to identifying the emerging linkages between content, audiences, and platforms. The blog is an initiative by the INMA North America Division Board of Directors.

Meet the bloggers

Lynne Brennen
New Leaf Media Consulting
Montclair, New Jersey, USA
send message

Nadine Chevolleau
Consumer Marketing
The Toronto Star
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
send message

Kathleen Coleman
Sales & Marketing
S-R Media
Spokane, Washington, USA
send message

Kevin Curnock
Executive Director
Business Improvement
Brunswick News
St. John, New Brunswick, Canada
send message

Jim Fleigner
Managing Partner
Impact Consultancy
Santa Monica, California, United States
send message

Claire Hawley
Vice President of Audience Development
Tribune Publishing
Los Angeles, California, USA
send message

Dan Johnson
Vice President,
Business Development
Gilbert, Arizona, USA
send message

Sandy MacLeod
Chief Operating Officer, Print
The Toronto Star/Metro English
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
send message

John Newby
The Times
Ottawa, Illinois, USA
send message

Nicki Purcell
Chief Digital Officer and Senior Vice President of Consumer Sales
The Dallas Morning News
Dallas, Texas, USA
send message

Maria Terrell
Director of Content
Dallas, Texas, USA
send message

New York City, New York, USA


RSS feed

Blog archives

March 2015 ( 2 )
February 2015 ( 5 )
January 2015 ( 4 )
December 2014 ( 3 )
November 2014 ( 3 )
October 2014 ( 2 )
September 2014 ( 4 )
August 2014 ( 4 )
July 2014 ( 3 )
June 2014 ( 3 )
May 2014 ( 3 )
April 2014 ( 3 )
March 2014 ( 3 )
February 2014 ( 3 )
January 2014 ( 3 )
December 2013 ( 4 )
November 2013 ( 2 )
October 2013 ( 2 )
September 2013 ( 4 )
August 2013 ( 5 )

Blog roll

Brain Traffic

Join INMA Today
Upcoming Events
INMA Ideas Day on Advertising
Paris, France
24 April 2015
INMA World Congress
New York, United States
10-12 May 2015
INMA Ideas Day on Marketing
Brussels, Belgium
22 May 2015
INMA Big Data for South Asia Media Summit
New Delhi, India
26 May 2015
INMA Congreso Latinoamericano
Bogotá, Colombia
13-14 August 2015
INMA South Asia Conference
New Delhi, India
19-20 August 2015

More Events

Member Profiles

  • Normand Lalonde

  • Massimo Monzio Compagnoni

  • F Harianto Santoso

  • Richard Reinsberg

  • Bruce Kratofil

  • Laurie Truitt

©2015 INMA | Home | About | Contact | RSS | Privacy