The traditional model of a media business – a team of journalists creating content and a commercial team selling to the audience that consumes it – has reigned for centuries. Most publishers assumed, with a few tweaks, the model would survive the migration to digital and offset any losses from print.
But spending patterns are proving otherwise. While advertisers are investing more in digital advertising, most growth is being snapped up by Google and Facebook.
Programmatic advertising has eased some pressures on online publishers, but the model tends to favour websites with scale rather than brands with smaller, targeted audiences. And chasing scale often runs publishers into new challenges, such as escalating costs and diminishing quality.
Fast forward to 2018 and enter Notd, a radically new digital media network which steps away from traditional media network models and introduces a micro-subscription service with ad-free reading.
How does Notd work?
What makes Notd so different to the media networks before it, is the creation of ‘streams’, which gives users the ability to create their own set of notes, opinions, commentaries, photos or articles – all on a public network without ads yet with the opportunity to make money.
Notd streams work similarly to that of ‘threads’ on Reddit and 4chan where an author can post notes and other forms of content. But what gives Notd the potential to be a successful ad-alternate revenue stream for publishers is that unlike other digital networks before it, streams are only accessible to subscribers.
Subscribers to streams pay a very small monthly or annual rate for each stream, starting at two cents per month or twenty cents per year. The authors of the streams, whether individual writers or established news publishers, can set the subscription rates, and keep 80% of the revenue if they choose to charge more than the minimum.
President of Notd, Ken Goldsholl, spoke to WNIP and explained how Notd aims to offer publishers an alternative revenue stream, with their content valued by consumers and writers alike, “Notd offers micro-subscription services with ad-free reading but with the opportunity for content to be monetised. It’s a different approach to the traditional digital media network.”
Notd gives news and magazine publishers the ability to expand their audience outside their websites by offering focused subscriptions on a particular genre such as a sport or business. As many publishers are wary of the short-term impact of a strict paywall, Notd provides a bridge to the reader-funded model, without requiring a dramatic redesign of websites.
A platform that puts publishers first
Journalists should find Notd’s in-stream features particularly useful – especially the ability to annotate notes with “notds” that appear when the reader hovers over-referenced text; in-line debates with invited writers; threading notes that are not posted sequentially; and no set limit on the length of notes.
Heavy moderation is also a key feature that authors will find reassuring. With the option to enable comments, abusive commenters will be “kicked off” the site, if they even make it that far according to Goldsholl. “Since readers have to pay even a small amount for access, many trolls and haters will not pay for the privilege of commenting on streams – promoting positive feedback for publishers and writers on the site,” said Goldsholl. “We aim to promote publishers, not have them subject to a bashing.”
“There’s a lot of different sites where writers get a lot of hate, but the fact users will have to pay to comment on streams will stop negative comments.”
Photographers and other users who wish to share photos can also create photo-oriented streams, which have the same rules as other streams – viewers must subscribe. While most personal streams would be priced at the minimum rate, so that subscriptions to hundreds of friends’ streams remain relatively cheap (subscribing to 50 minimum price streams would only cost $10 per year), professional photographers now have a way to easily monetise views of their photos, where they can display large, high res photos taken with cameras, and not just phones.
“You can even have a stream of just photos if you want, like Instagram but with commentary” Goldsholl explained. “Notd gives users the opportunity to comment without a character limit, improving the user experience.”
Above all else, Notd’s decision to focus on rewarding publisher content rather than focusing on rewarding content best suitable for ads should pay dividends.
“For us, not running ads was a no-brainer. Its drives publishers crazy that content is only as good as the ads its subjected to and we wanted to change that” Goldsholl explained. “Publishers can decide to run sponsored content if they want to. How much of the content they want to run as sponsored on their stream is up to them.”
The biggest challenge for publishers is making the leap and trusting a relatively new business model, which as of yet has not proven its success. Notd is new and will take time to grow in bandwidth and dominance if it is to become a global influence to rivals such as Medium and Flipboard, which themselves have taken time to gain traction.
However, Goldsholl believes that Notd is the next opportunity for publishers to grow in diversification. “Publishers need a way to monetise platform content and that’s what we give them. I believe a year from now I fully expect Notd to be a viable and profitable platform for publishers of all kinds.”