At the end of October TheSun.co.uk subscribers were informed that as of November 30th they would no longer have to pay to access content on the site. All articles, and even The Sun Goals video clip highlights service would then be free to access.
With News UK having paid £30m over 3 years for Premier League goal clips, surely 225,000 subscribers times £7.99 by 12 would be a significant loss? (£21.6m per year). With Ad-blockers on the rise and ad revenue increasingly being curbed too - why ever would The Sun remove its paywall?
Much has been made about how the paywall limited the reach of the site versus participation levels and social sharing. Possibly The Sun was comparing its own reach with that of The Daily Mail, which has managed to significantly out-rank The Sun for several years now. But the Daily Mail owners are not happy either with the revenues they accrue through their site - however globally popular it is.
Our own Ad-blocker audit has shown that already advertising revnues are being curbed by as much as 40% and growing. Many commentators have cited that Freemium is the only way to go, but then The Sun was already mostly Freemium in any case with content increasingly freely accessible and only the select featured article and Sun Goals totally barred.
We Affino advocate the gated / metered approach where readers are granted access to a certain number of articles each week / month, but then have to pay for further / additional access. Having all of The Sun totally free, I kind of fail to see what the business model here is - where will revenues come from? And how will the £21.6m loss in revenue be addressed / offset?
Some commentators have noted that you simply cannot put a premium on generic everyday headlines which you can freely obtain from any number of sources - meaning there would be no real value to news subscribers to this - you could argue that the same kind of news is freely accessible on The Daily Mail in any case.
I have frquently touched on how many news publishers are looking more towards membership services, but typically those carry some sort of fee. The Sun’s ’totally free’ approach certainly opens them up for more potential reach and more social / shares, but I really struggle to see where their revenues will come from.
Will they be moving more towards a Native Advertising model - scripting more sponsored article a la Buzzfeed? This would seem the only route still available to them. I have often mentioned the shift in advertising towards Native, Sponsorship and Product-Placement - is this The Sun’s strategy now?
I would have thought all publishers need more of a multi-level-approach with a number of different revenue sources. Content subscriptions do work for a number of sectors, but are relient on specifity and value of content. Membership services are on the increase too - so the logical strategy here is some sort of multi-tier offering which supports different consumers at different levels. A number of publishers are moving more into data and selling-on of consumer intelligence; possibly there is an angle there too?
It will be fascinating to see exactly how The Sun evolves beyond the 30th of November. Could they not take a leaf out of big brother ’The Times’ success in their membership and subscription services. It seems that only The Times has managed to sustain / retain high levels of both print and digital subscribers where everyone else is still shrinking ...