Inspired by a blog post from publishing consultant Alan Hunter, I wrote a piece for What’s New In Publishing looking at how the relative importance of factual content in news publishing has changed in the 100 years since legendary newsman CP Scott said, “Comment is free, but facts are sacred”.
Neither Alan or I question the importance of facts; they matter more than ever in a world riven by misinformation and disinformation. But looking at news publishing from a business perspective, will facts alone deliver the audiences and the engagement needed to sustain a healthy publishing operation?
Probably not, according to the former Head of Digital at The Times and The Sunday Times. Alan argues that, today, facts in the form of news have become commoditised and to differentiate themselves in a world awash with information, news publishers need to add commentary and analysis. I agree, and see the Semafor launch as a sophisticated example of the approach.
Toolkits’ Jack Marshall says 2022 was the year publishers’ approach to subscription strategies evolved and matured as economic conditions tightened. Key themes for the year include a focus on retention, the struggle to move beyond “superfans”, the emergence of ‘long, cheap’ promotional periods as standard and the clear value of recurring revenue in tough times.
Google, Facebook and Amazon continue to dominate the US ad market, but Insider Intelligence’s global numbers demonstrate how players from the Asian markets, predominantly Chinese players such as Alibaba or TikTok-owner ByteDance, dwarf the forecasted numbers from aspirational ad-market players like Apple and Microsoft.
We spoke with Alan Hunter while he was still Head of Digital at The Times and Sunday Times and just after they had reached 500,000 digital subscribers. We spoke about why paywall persistence pays off, and how edition-based publishing is more important than ever.
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