When can you charge for content

With the current decline in advertising continuing, many publishers have been re-examining where and how they can charge for online content.  One extreme position is that of the Guardian, whose MD Tim Brooks has categorically said they will never charge for content.(see my recent blog on their web strategy).  Other publishers, notably the FT, have tried to make a subscription  model work.  At the other end of the spectrum, many specialist publishers have long developed print subscriptions as a  big revenue earner.  Here are some ideas on how you can identify the areas where you can potentially charge for content:

1. Product Reviews & Guides

If someone is contemplating a major purchase, then they are more likely to pay for trusted content to help make that big decision.  www.parkers.co.uk charges £1.99 for detailed information packs on cars.  What big decisions do your consumers have to make and how can you package a comprehensive buyers guide?

2. Games & Puzzles

People seem more prepared to pay for games content – the Times charges for a premium crossword service, and the Sun does well from bingo – see my earlier post for more on  sun bingo.  The Telegraph also charges for fantasy football.

3. Tuition

Acquiring new skills is seen as worth paying for.  E-learning is booming. Photo magazines can charge for DVDs on photoshop techniques.  What how-to sections do you have on your site and can you package them for a price?

4. Archive

Many newspaper sites charge to search an archive on a time basis.  Magazine publishers have also historically charged for back issues.  What is the value to a consumer of searching your online archive?

5. Tailored digests

If you have very specific information needs and not much time, you may well be prepared to pay for someone else to do the hard work for you.  The Week does this brilliantly in print, services like editorial intelligence offer this for a business/political audience.  Are there subsets of your audience that value a tailored digest of your content?

I’m not saying that this is an easy process, but it may well be one that publishers are forced to consider.  I’d be very interested in your own views.

Carolyn Morgan’s consultancy business, Penmaen Media, helps businesses use the web to create media brands and grow their revenues.  Find out more at www.penmaen.media