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Online Communities Sustain Paid-For News Model

Article date: Thu, 18 Feb 2010 12:01 GMT

Karen Webber of DirectNews at Adfero

Developing a community is a key way to monetise news online according to a recent industry round table.

With Rupert Murdoch expected to begin charging for access to News Corporation's newspaper websites within a year, experts predict that building a trusting community will be the only way to guarantee visitors will return once pay walls have been erected.

Offering additional incentives such as jobs boards and consumer promotions is also expected to encourage subscription numbers in spite of competing news sources such as Google and Yahoo. Panellist Mark Garner, publisher of the Planet Confidential websites, is currently trialling a paid-for model and suggests that building a concentrated community allows publishers to offer better, more tailored promotions.

Lawrence Jones, MD of UKFast, added, "I think if you are simply providing news it's a flawed business model. Just like a traditional newspaper had to add things like crosswords and supplements I think a website has to add variety as well.

"People want interaction now. They are less bothered about you telling them what is going on in the outside world and are more concerned about engaging with each other."

Supporting Alexa Internet's findings that placed a growing number of social networking websites among the top 20 rated in the UK, community-generated content is also expected to supercede the desire for news, especially in the under 35s.

Karen Webber of DirectNews at Adfero, said, "I think journalism needs to adapt and realise that communities and people walking the streets have the means not only to communicate but to publish."

With the BBC already an established source of free online news, offering specialised, niche content was also identified by the panel as a way to encourage readers to pay for information online.

The round table discussions are held in association with UKFast with the aim of uniting business leaders to share advice and provide a wealth of ideas for other developing companies. Additional panellists included Nick Jaspan, publisher of How-Do, Richard Turner of BBC Manchester and Stuart Anderson, editor of EN Magazine.

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