Discovery: Monetizing Content
The most significant aspect of digital transformation at the newspapers in the sample is the emphasis on paid-content models online. Legacy publishers around the world have continued to turn away from advertising models and toward subscription, membership, and other paid strategies to enhance digital revenues, with some larger brands drawing significant numbers of subscribers. However, this ‘winner-takes-most’ trend disadvantages smaller outlets, particularly in a mobile- and platform-driven environment.
The local and regional newspapers in the sample have incorporated various forms of paid content, including metered paywall, ‘freemium’, and ‘premium’ models. Some have only recently implemented paid models, while others have had them in place for years. Across the board, interviewees continue to experiment with their strategies to determine which types of content are most likely to draw paid subscribers.
Noted: ‘metered paywall’ and ‘freemium’ represent two different paid models. The metered paywall allows users to view a specific number of articles before requiring paid subscription. Freemium is a portmanteau of the words “free” and "premium". In this model, contents are divided into “basic content” and “premium content”. Users are not allowed to read “premium content” unless they pay for them.
Producing Value-Added Journalism
The move to paid-content models has, for news organizations across the sample, led to a heightened focus on producing high-quality local journalism that appeals to loyal readers. Although interviewees said their newsrooms continue to produce the traditional daily news that consistently draws online audiences, including traffic, weather, courts, crime, breaking news, and other topics, they have also invested resources into producing in-depth investigations and long-form human-interest stories.
This value-added content prioritizes original reporting with a local focus over stories that draw the most traffic and reflects diverse understandings of what constitutes quality journalism, from in-depth articles about history, people, sports, culture, and infrastructure, to service-oriented features offering advice on navigating day-to-day life in cities. Newsrooms are also pursuing data-driven reporting, solutions journalism, and new digital offerings, particularly podcasts.
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