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Executive Report - By Thomas Baekdal - May 2012

The Trends vs Paid-for Content

The reason people don't like the paywall, is because the traditional paywall is so bad at embracing the connected world. You can do better than that.

We are starting to see several interesting trends in the world of publishing. For most of the past 15 years, online publishing has been on a bit of a roller coaster ride. First, embracing the concept of making no money (aka the "culture of free"), only to find that it wasn't profitable. Then, within the past five years, reaching the great depression.

No, I'm not talking about the financial crisis. I'm talking about how the publishing world, journalists, and writers alike all started arguing that nothing could be done.

Of course, they put a bit of a spin to it. Instead of saying nothing could be done, they came up with rather silly arguments like, "We just need to embrace the new world. Then making no money would suddenly be profitable."

The pattern here is obvious to anyone who has ever worked with change management. Every change results in eight stages:

  1. Denial: "The digital world will never be more important than print."
  2. Frustration and anger: "This web thing is devastating quality journalism!"
  3. Negotiation and bargaining: "Look we made this fancy iPad app, just like its print counterpart, please buy it!"
  4. Depression: "Nothing is working, nobody will pay, everything must be free"
  5. Acceptance: "Okay, we failed what?"
  6. Experimentation: "What if we change this, and added that?"
  7. Discovery and delight: "Hey, this social thing is generating tons of traffic to our paid-for content."
  8. Integration: "We need to base everything we do on the connected world"

It is interesting to see how fast things are changing. It took the publishing world eight years to go from stage one to stage two. But it only took four years to go from stage two to stage three.

The publishing world as a whole is currently at stage 3.5 - somewhere between negotiation and depression. A few have moved on to stage six, and only a handful are at stage seven. More to the point, several publishers are at mixed stages. Many are experimenting with digital, but haven't accepted that the print mentality is the problem. And as a result we see all kinds of fancy media products that don't really change anything.

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Baekdal is a magazine for media professionals, focusing on media analysis, trends, patterns, strategy, journalistic focus, and newsroom optimization. Since 2010, it has helped publishers in more than 40 countries, including big and small publishers like Condé Nast, Bonnier, Schibsted, NRC, and others, as well as companies like Google and Microsoft.

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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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