Facebook offers newspaper subscriptions for Instant Articles, publishers remain skeptical

Facebook continues to develop new programs and initiatives in order to increase their standing among the newspaper community. Most recently, it announced that publishers will be allowed to have metered and premium paywalls around their Instant Articles. The Instant Articles program was introduced by Facebook in 2015 as an attempt to establish a newspaper presence on the platform and gain a commanding control of the mobile news market.

Despite the promise of the program, newspapers have remained skeptical. Even though publishers are expected to have full control over pricing, the metered paywall model is still unrefined. Publishers have long struggled with pricing models as print advertising and newspaper subscriptions revenue have declined with online advertising, a cheaper alternative, becoming more popular. In addition, the increasing amount of web users who utilize ad blocking software has already cut into publisher’s existing profits. Publications have shown the digital subscription model can be profitable, but Facebook will be withholding a cut of subscription sales. Plus, Facebook prioritizes video over text, leaving publishers less willing to hand over some of the control of their publishing power.

Referral Traffic

 

 

Transparency has been an issue for Facebook as well, leaving publishers questioning to what extent they’ll be able to access reader data and other vital analytics metrics. In addition, Facebook has long suffered an identity crisis as the company shifts and finds balance between its platform roots and its resemblance as a modern media empire. At its current state, Facebook Instant Articles’s barrier to entry is high, which has driven some publishers to use the service as a source of referral traffic, referring users back to the publisher’s main website. Facebook is currently the largest source of referral traffic, according to Business Insider Intelligence.

Publishers are also presented with what they consider better alternatives. For instance, Google has begun offering Accelerated Mobile Pages,in which publishers can manage fast-loading mobile web pages without having to acquire large development teams or staff members with certain specialized skill sets. Opting into Apple News has also become a popular option for many publishers, as it takes advantage of the app’s high-priority placement on iOS devices.

Newspapers and publishers of all sizes have looked to regain control over their revenue streams in order to compensate for the transition period toward a more digital-orientated publication. Local publications have also begun to support their own CMS sites as well as third-party e-Editions. The latter are digital replicas of the print product, built from PDFs and turned into an interactive format that lives on the newspaper’s website. Dirxion allows customers to lock their e-Editions behind a subscription login, allowing only subscribers to access the print pages. Widgets can also be added to e-Editions, giving Dirxion customers the tools to independently sell advertising space to businesses within their local market.

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New York Times’s recent changes illustrate shift toward online news

The New York Times has made subtle changes to the structure of their leadership in response to the growing number of online readers and, inversely, their decreasing print readership. In May, The Times terminated the public editor position as the newspaper seeks to shift more of their resources and attention toward online feedback and comments.

Most newspaper publications have made similar changes, and The Washington Post had also ended the public editor position in 2013. The 2020 Group, a team of seven Times journalists who evaluated the future of The Times and print journalism as a whole, summarized their future plans in a recent report.

The report,“Journalism That Stands Apart,” revealed the trend that advertising can no longer support newspapers as much as they did in the past. It’s much cheaper to purchase advertising space on the Internet as opposed to on a physical form. Digital subscriptions have therefore become the backbone of most newspaper publications nowadays. The Washington Post has proved the method can be lucrative.Despite being a privately traded company, The Post has alluded that digital subscription revenue has reached nine figures.

New York Times RevenueThe report also concluded that the application of print-based goals aided the newspaper recession. When online news was treated as a pageview race rather than a strategy to drive more subscriptions, this lead to the decrease of print circulation because readers realized they could get the same articles online for free.

The newsroom needs a clearer understanding that pageviews, while a meaningful yardstick, do not equal success. To repeat, The Times is a subscription-first business; it is not trying to maximize pageviews.
— 2020 Group, 2017

The move into the digital era hasn’t been exclusive to nationwide newspapers. Local publications have also begun to support their own CMS sites as well as third-party e-Editions. The latter are digital replicas of the print product, built from PDFs and turned into an interactive format that lives on the newspaper’s website. Dirxion allows customers to lock their e-Editions behind a subscription login, allowing only subscribers to access the print pages. The e-Edition navigation features, such as custom table of contents, thumbnail page images and cross-reference linking, ensure that the e-Editions are easy to read and use.

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Washington Post shows online newspaper subscriptions can be lucrative

Since the rise of the Internet and it’s evolving role in journalism and news delivery, newspapers across the country have heard the same story: ad revenue and circulation is declining, staff sizes need to be cut, papers need to do more with less. However, The Washington Post has been an exception to the rule in recent years.

The Washington Post was featured in The New York Times in a recent article, highlighting its success and resurgence through online newspaper subscriptions. The two key factors are a $250 million acquisition by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the hiring of former Boston Globe editor-in-chief Martin Baron in 2013. In the following four years, The Washington Post has shown newspapers can sustain a profitable online presence, having hired hundreds of staffers and almost tripling its technology staff, as reported by the article. According to comScore, an American media measurement and analytics company, The Washington Post now ranks third in digital page views (811 million in April), sitting only below The New York Times and CNN among news websites.

“Our digital ad revenue is in the solid nine figures,” said Jed Hartman, chief revenue officer of The Washington Post. “We’ll have our third straight year of double-digit revenue growth.”

The boom in revenue is partly thanks to the newspaper’s decision to move to a metered subscription model in June of 2013. As explained by an FAQ posted on The Washington Post’s website, all readers are allowed to read 20 online articles a month or can access unlimited content for $9.99 a month. Many other papers are following suit. According to a study published by the American Press Institute, 78 percent of U.S. newspapers with circulations over 50,000 are using a digital subscription model and 62 percent use a metered model like The Washington Post.

Rising digital subscriptions haven’t been an unusual trend though, with many large publications receiving boosts following the coverage of the most recent election. Year-over-year, The New York Times gained 500,000 (a 47 percent increase).

Local newspapers have taken strides to combine their print and online presence using Dirxion’s e-Edition services. These digital replicas of the print publication are a transition tool for many local newspapers, as they venture further onto the Internet and look for ways to promote their core product. Dirxion allows customers to lock their e-Editions behind a subscription login, allowing only subscribers to access the print pages. The e-Edition navigation features, such as custom table of contents, thumbnail page images and cross-reference linking, ensure that the e-Editions are easy to read and use.

 

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Great ways to promote your newspaper e-Edition

Newspaper e-Editions are becoming a necessity for newspaper websites. They act as an extension of the print version of the paper, broadening its circulation to the endless edges of the Internet. If not promoted properly, however, it will not be found by the newspaper’s target audience. Below are some practices that newspapers are using to promote their e-Edition.

Integrate it into current social media strategies
The online version of the paper is social-network friendly, which means you can easily create links to it from your favorite social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Actively integrating these publications into your existing social media strategy will offer visitors quick access to your brand and will help increase reader interest.Once there, users will be able to share your interactive publication on their favorite social networks by using various interface features. Use social media to circulate the paper to your readers, and then let your readers start circulating it for you.

Facebook — If your company has a Facebook page, then you can post a link to your newest digital edition on your wall or to the sidebar of your profile page. You can even integrate your entire digital edition into your page by utilizing an embedded Facebook app. Also, periodically include links to interesting print articles within the replica version to announce the latest issue in your status updates.

Twitter — Make sure to post an occasional link to your digital edition pages. It’s a great way for new followers to not only get the information they were after but also become more familiar with your company and your publication.

Deliver targeted email campaigns with a clear call-to-action
An interactive publication is an asset; promote it to your customers via email campaigns. Send an email prior to launch as a teaser and then send another to launch your digital edition to your targeted audience, making sure to highlight some of the hottest content to prompt clickthroughs.

Advertise on external sites
Create a banner ad that notifies people about your interactive, online version, and use the banner in an ad campaign on verticals, local businesses (news stations, chambers of commerce, newspapers, real estate companies), industry blogs, etc. You can also generate an Adwords campaign for additional exposure on external sites.

Provide above-the-fold visibility on your homepage
Featuring your digital publication in a prominent position on your home page will naturally grab the attention of your customers. Our research shows that displaying a thumbnail of the digital publication on your home page increases publication use by 21 percent.

Advertise in your printed publication
You’ll reach your entire distribution list at almost no additional cost to you. Be sure to let your print subscribers know all about the benefits of using the digital version — quick search, immediate access, direct click to order, easy to share with friends, video/audio for deeper product info, etc.

Provide the option to view your digital product in lieu of ordering a printed copy
This provides your customers with immediate access to what they wanted and could drive repeat traffic if they start using it. Additionally, offering a digital version of your publication will appeal to the increasingly “green” consumer.

Offer incentives
Everyone loves a discount. Encourage your customers to browse the digital publication and then reward them with a discount toward their next online purchase. Or, provide exclusive content in your digital version.

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