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Paid content strategies for news websites: An empirical study of British newspapers' online business models

Thurman, N. & Herbert, J. (2007). Paid content strategies for news websites: An empirical study of British newspapers' online business models. Journalism Practice, 1(2), pp. 208-226. doi: 10.1080/17512780701275523


This study uses qualitative research interviews and a survey to quantify and analyse business models at online newspapers in the UK. Senior editors and executives reported that news websites rely on advertising income to a greater extent than their print counterparts. Despite this, British news sites continue to charge users for some content, although to a varying degree. The fact that online editions still contribute barely a tenth of total revenues explains this experimental approach towards business strategy. Although paid-for content has mostly failed as a mechanism for the online news business in the past, changes in technology and net culture may mean that it is becoming an option again. The authors examine what content is being charged for and why, and investigate: how the 12 newspapers studied are balancing the need to develop additional revenue streams with the demand for traffic in a buoyant advertising market; the extent to which cannibalisation of the print parent is still a concern; the complementary benefits of developing digital products; strategies towards archived content; the value of columnist content to online users; the success of digital editions and email alerts; the potential of mobile services; and the rapidly developing number of online services and commercial partnerships hosted by newspapers on the Web.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: business models, cannibalisation, content charging, newspapers, online journalism, subscription
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Journalism
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