How chasing scale led publishers to focus on low-value users rather than revenue

Dutch 'iTunes for news' company Blendle shuts down its micro-payment offering

It’s been another busy week at Pugpig so I’m writing another weekend edition of the newsletter, and I wanted to flag up something that we wrote about in the weekly Media Bulletin that we write. It is a great summary of a podcast interview on Subscribe Now on one of our favourite sites - the Audiencers. Lennart Schneider, the host of Subscribe Now, interviewed Selma Stern, the chief customer officer of Fortune.

Here was my summary of the conversation in our Media Bulletin:

The conversation is a good reminder of how having the wrong KPIs can lead to the wrong outcomes for a business and that no matter how solid your KPIs are that the success of achieving those goals comes down to the teams that deliver them. Silos and a lack of diversity in backgrounds, thinking and skills are a recipe for frustration, friction and failure.

The interview reinforced my view that in chasing reach publishers optimised growing large but only casually connected audiences. The belief is that by having a sizeable audience that advertising revenue would pay the bills, but it isn’t playing out that way. No matter how large the audience, advertising isn’t paying the bills and is an uneven revenue stream. Advertising has a role to play in revenue strategies but only part of a diversified revenue strategy. However, as Stern points out, chasing large audiences without revenue goals have led to the poor outcomes.

And here is a data-point about the challenges of ad-driven, scale businesses and how the big chains will focus on using AI to cut costs and extract value from their IP rather than delivering value to audiences.

Micro-payment ‘poster child’ abandons the strategy

Dutch media payment provider Blendle was held up a decade ago as proving an ‘iTunes for news’ model. I have always been sceptical of the model because news isn’t like music. I listen to my favourite songs over and over, but news has a short shelf life.

There is evidence that some people start a trial subscription so that they can read only a single article, and that might be a good use case for micro-payments. But Blendle has found that there is ‘very limited’ demand for one-off article payments. Instead, users prefer all-access subscription bundles. It is a useful reminder of how the paid content landscape has shifted and how publishers need to be nimble to adapt to consumer preferences.

What’s New in Publishing has a good piece about the challenges for UK publishers as they enter the US. Language and differences around political partisanship are just two challenges for British publishers. As someone who was at The Guardian when they launched one of their initial forays into the US, I would also say that British publishers misunderstand one critical element of the media market there - TV. TV news still remains a major source of news for American audiences.

The podcasting boom that occurred during the pandemic has cooled, but as with most media sectors, that has meant consolidation so that major networks are still finding opportunities for growth.

Steven Waldman, the co-founder of Report for America, says that supporting local news would pay for itself by curbing local corruption.

With the fires raging in Hawaii, the Reynolds Journalism Institute highlights how newsrooms have popped up to cover wildfires in the past.

Australian public broadcaster ABC has decided to shut down most of its accounts on the social network formerly known as Twitter.