AOP census proves publishers ready to charge for content

The majority of publishers already have or plan to have an online paid content model, according to the Association of Online Publisher’s latest annual census.


More than 40 members of the AOP, such as Channel 4, Bauer Media and Reuters, took part in the research, which provides a picture of the online publishing landscape.

Despite consumers’ unwillingness to pay for content – according to a poll earlier this year, just 12% of consumers would pay to read a newspaper online (nma 14 May 2009) – only 30% of publishers said they have no plans to charge for content.

The research comes as a number of publishers, such as News Corp, Future and Bauer Media, have said they’re investigating pay models.

Tim Faircliff, general manager of consumer media at Thomson Reuters and co-chair of the AOP, said paid content is top of publishers’ agendas.

“People have been talking about this but it’s good to get some hard facts from publishers,” he added.

Reports this week revealed a leaked memo from Richard Freudenstein, CEO of News Digital Media, the online division of News Corp’s Australian subsidiary News Limited, which said research had found that “if we get the product and delivery system right, people will happily pay for news content online, on mobile, e-reader or other device”.

Tim Cain, head of research at the AOP, said there had been an increase in interest in the paid content model. “Two years ago it was evenly split so there’s definitely an upwards swing towards paid content,” he said.

Dominic Collins, group director of Trader Media Group and incoming co-chair of the AOP, said the statistic is reflective of the publishing industry. “Publishers are looking at what areas they can charge for, such as mobile, special reports and archives,” he said.

Richard Foster, digital director of Future UK, said “Businesses are beginning to recognise the huge potential for diversifying online revenue streams, it’s just no one has come up with anything that comes close to challenging the dominance of display advertising. We’re exploring lots of different avenues at Future and this approach is an important part of our digital strategy.”

He said Future has already launched initiatives around affiliate programmes, content licensing and premium services which reward the user subscriptions.

Other research found two-thirds of publishers believe the use of social media to drive traffic to the site is very important or essential. Almost all publishers (95%) said they need to embrace social media.

“It’s important for publishers to embrace social media, not just for generating traffic but also for engagement,” said Faircliff.

Mobile emerged as a significant area for publishers, with 86% expected to provide a mobile site in the next 12 months. Some 83% agreed the iPhone has transformed the opportunities of the mobile web.

The research also found publishers see the BBC as more of a threat to their business than Google, with 50% agreeing it was a danger compared with 38% worried about Google’s market dominance.

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