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Together we rise: Could content bundling be the next big thing for publishers?

People are increasingly willing to pay for the news they consume digitally, at least content produced by reputed publishers. As users sign up for these new services, publishers are seeing benefits in partnering with other companies to offer a wider range of content. The idea is to make their offer more enticing and boost subscriber growth, as well as establish new revenue streams.

A recent standout example is The New York Times and reading subscription service Scribd, who recently came together with a package deal for new readers. The $12.99/month subscription bundle gives users basic digital access to The Times content and everything on Scribd, which has a collection of over a million books, newspapers, magazines and audiobooks. This is one of the first high profile partnerships in what’s predicted to be publishing’s next big trend: bundling content.

Package deals for future loyalty

Scribd and the Times have experimented with this concept before with a deeply discounted package deal for students. The success of that deal inspired them to create a package targeting new subscribers. Other companies have also come together to create special package deals aimed at students. Spotify, for example, teamed up with Hulu and Showtime to create a heavily discounted deal for students.

According to Janet Levine, Managing Director, Invention+, Mindshare North America, “It can be an effective way to gauge interest in a particular offering. And after students graduate, they become loyal to whatever subscription they were using in college.”

The next big business model for publishers is going to be bundled subscriptions.

Trip Adler, CEO of Scribd, said, “This collaboration between Scribd and The Times is one of the early deals in this new emerging mega-trend that is going to re-shape the way people access content. Subscriptions have become an important business model because they offer a great user experience for consumers and recurring revenue for platforms and content owners.

We believe the next big business model for publishers is going to be bundled subscriptions where consumers get multiple services for a single price. This will lead to a better experience and a better value for consumers, which will lead to a broader number of people paying for content and ultimately incremental revenue for publishers.”

Delivering enhanced value to consumers

There is a limit to how many subscriptions people can afford, which is why content bundles are becoming increasingly attractive. The cable television industry has been pioneering this concept for some time now, bundling channels together to create affordable, as well as more compelling deals.

“People take it as a modern version of a good deal, and publishers and brands know that and people love to get things that they’re consuming at a discount,” said Levine.

“Not such a weird transaction anymore”

According to Aileen Gallagher, Associate Professor, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, “Thanks to streaming, people are more comfortable paying for things. It’s not such a weird transaction anymore. Media companies are using a playbook from Silicon Valley, instead of acquiring the competition, they’re partnering with them”.

Speaking on the NYT/Scribd partnership, Russell Kern, Managing Director, Marketing Partnerships, The New York Times, said, “It’s about reaching a new audience, about presenting all that the Times has to offer to an audience that may have just a narrow view of the Times. As the Times looks to become an even more prominent news organization, we hope working with Scribd will achieve that goal.”

While publishers previously avoided such partnerships so as not to risk brand dilution, they are now willing to experiment more. Indeed, new partnerships and content bundling may be one of the best ways to bring new subscribers on board, and just as importantly, keep them loyal.


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