This coming weekend, South Africa’s most popular online news platform will introduce a subscription service that will see breaking news still freely accessible but with a payment premium on content such as investigative journalism.
It is unsurprising that News24 has waited so long because its raison d’etre as a free news platform has long passed.
When it was established three decades ago, it proved to be instantly popular and from a revenue point of view, while it made a bit of money from advertising, it really did a splendid job in promoting all the Naspers e-commerce platforms.
It is going to be interesting to see how many of News24’s loyal readers will be prepared to pay for premium content. Frankly, I would hope that the powers that be give it time to build subscribers.
One of the biggest mistakes that newspapers made right at the start of the digital revolution was to give their content away for free. It was a stupid error of judgement for which a very hefty price was paid because readers got used to getting things for free and really did not take kindly to have to suddenly start paying for their daily news fare.
The model News24 has chosen is a good one. Keeping their readers by continuing with free breaking news content and better still is the idea of putting the news and opinion generated by themselves, behind a paywall.
Because breaking news is still available for free from numerous sources.
My guess is that, given time, they will make money out of their subscriber model and frankly I don’t see their daily viewer numbers decreasing at all.
As someone who uses News24 a couple of times a day, I am looking forward to seeing what I am going to be missing and just what sort of incentive I will have to commit myself to paying a subscription.
The digital era and technological advances have provided some fascinating case histories and none more so that the trials and errors, successes and failures of online platforms from The New York Times, Times of London, The Guardian and so forth.
It has also provided marketers with all manner of dilemma. For example, with TV viewers able to zap through commercial breaks, the once ubiquitous 30-second commercial is simply a waste of money these days. And those ads that pop up in the middle of Facebook videos are extremely irritating. Like a rude stranger bursting in on a private conversation.
DStv learnt right from the start that it was wise to not allow ads to interrupt movies.
As a marketer I would never in a million years persuade any of my clients to place ads in the middle of those Facebook videos. It makes no sense whatsoever.
Advertising in the modern age is extremely complex and by no means as clear-cut as it was in the past. Return on advertising funds employed is critical. Something so many South African brands don’t really think about. Which is why about R50 billion a year of marketing spend is wasted and the reason why 20% of all advertising is a complete waste of time and money.
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