The decision by Europe’s Directorate General for Competition (DG Comp) recently is very important. The fine was a clear statement by the European Union that it’s business practices in online advertising break the law. Despite being late to link to the article, I definitely recommend reading it. On the same subject, I’d recommend another blog with great insight in the publishing industry, from Fredéric Filloux.
However, I would say that despite the fines and the restriction of practices for the likes of Goole and Facebook, there is in part, a business responsibility on the newspapers to offer products and services that are not only wanted and liked, but are profitable too. To achieve this, the playing field should be fair, however. And I’m not entirely sure that it is currently so, tending me to believe that the EU’s fine is along the right lines.
Some signs of newspapers waking up to this new reality are appearing, with the NYTimes reporting for the first time in a while revenue growth based on online subscriptions increasing, despite a decrease in online advertising of 6% (no doubt to Google and Facebook). The NYTimes has developed an value proposition that appeals to users (online crosswords, recipes, podcasting for example) and it is this that helped them create the return in revenue.
A relook at their prices and a simplification of the signup process have gone, in no small way I suspect, to help this. Just look at the signup page :
A dollar per week for access to all the article from either a web bowser or the good digital app. And look, the sign up using Apple Pay, even PayPal. What could be simpler ? Many other online publications could learn from this. Removing friction in the buying process is so important in this day and age.
The NY Times may be able to maintain its place based on its offer, value and notoriety, but many more operations at the municipal level cannot. They can only survive if they radically pivot and offer services that are of direct value locally, but more importantly continue to offer that value in an ongoing basis. Please read this excellent article from Ben Thompson on the subject.
It is by this process, newspapers and other online publications, will be able to stay relevant in public discourse and be part of a wider defense of democracy. Just asking for democracy is not a way to guarantee it.
Photo by Hayden Walker on Unsplash