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Content doesn’t need to be free argues Digiday editor-in-chief Brian Morrissey

Publishers are finally moving on from the belief that “content needs to be free” and beginning to make paywalls work around the world, the publisher of US-based news site Digiday has told Australian marketers.

Morrissey: Subscriptions are working

Brian Morrissey, editor-in-chief and president of Digiday, told the ADMA Global Forum: “A lot of publishers chose to go in with this idea that the advertising market is going to grow so much that you didn’t have to charge people, you basically were going to have gigantic audiences and there would be enough advertising for everyone.

“Now publishers have to go back to the future. You need multiple revenue streams and direct revenue streams.”

Morrissey noted when publishers broke into the online world they were in the mindset of ‘content needs to be free’ and relied solely on advertising, which is a failing model.

Despite relatively low, but growing, numbers in Australia, Morrissey argued “subscriptions are working”. He said: “Serving your reader so they will pay you, you become a lot closer to your true consumer.

“Subscriptions are not an all-or-nothing thing but they are an absolutely critical piece to a future media model.

“The days of having someone stand between you and your end consumer, your end audience, are ending.

“It is not a good position to be in when someone else owns your audience, and right now for so many publishers, Facebook and Google own their audiences,” he said.

The Digiday editor-in-chief advised publishers to stop chasing what Facebook and Google have, and then competing against it.

“Google and Facebook right now are in complete control of the media world.

“Publishers are dependant on Facebook for the majority of their traffic, they are feeding Google and Facebook and then trying to compete against them in a way that they cannot, and the reason that they can’t is because digital advertising has become about scale and has become about who has the most data and the biggest audience, and that is Google and Facebook.”

With plummeting advertising rates, publishers have been driven to a “cost-cutting” model resulting in companies constantly cutting “costs down to the bone” because the advertising revenue is not enough to survive.

“It has led to a strategic drift, if you are not differentiated and if you don’t put your brand as a ‘north star’ you are just going to be like everyone else, and that’s not a good position to be in because then you are easily substituted,” he warned.

Branded content was another revenue stream Morrissey pointed to, saying creating a strong brand, differentiating in the market and funding it through agency-style services is where the future media model will move to.

“The differentiation here with agency services is publishers can bring something unique to the table.

While the industry is starting to see a growth of consultancies acquiring creative agencies, including Accenture buying The Monkeys and RXP purchasing The Works, Morrissey predicated publishers are the next on the acquisition list and will be bought by agencies.

“Publishers are better at creating content everyday”

“Publishers are better at creating content everyday and always thinking about what an audience want, whereas a lot of times creative agencies are awards driven and it’s what’s the brilliant idea.

“If you are a part of a publisher you can’t afford to sit around and wait for the brilliant idea, you have to produce day in day out and then do it again,” Morrissey continued.

“Everyone is getting into everyone else’s business, consultancies are getting agency business and publishers getting in the agency business and you will see agencies getting into the publishing business.”

He also said Digiday would be partnering with ADMA on “some events in Australia.

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