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A solution for publishers looking to offset falling advertising revenue

(Image credit: Image Credit: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock)

The need for a solution 

The digital transformation of the publishing industry is all but complete, with the way content is now being produced, distributed and consumed almost unrecognisable from a decade ago. While it has allowed publishers to have the potential for unheard of global reach – Mail online is now the world’s most read newspaper, with its website attracting north of 200 million readers each month – it has been increasingly difficult for publishers to monetise their offerings in the digital realm.   

The biggest challenge for publishers is generating ad revenue in this post click era. It’s a challenge that publishers need a solution to, and fast, as print’s fortunes are not expected to improve any time soon. In fact, according to media buying agency Magna Global, newspaper advertising spending will shrink by 8 per cent a year between now and 2021.  

Building of a paywall  

How to replace the revenue that had diminishing due to a decline in paid print readership and advertising revenue has been flummoxing publishers for quite some time. Many started implementing paywalls on their websites, based on one of three high level models. Hard paywalls that allow no free content and prompt the user straight away to pay in order to access content, soft paywalls that allow some free content, such as an abstract or summary, and metered paywalls that allow a set number of free articles that a reader can access over a specific period.  

The Times is perhaps the most famous outlet to have implemented a paywall with any success, leading to it now seeing near £11 million in profits. Yet, the Sun’s paywall experiment to offset lowering advertising revenue is more typical of the industry’s u-turn on the practice and lasted a matter of just a couple of years before the scheme got scrapped back in 2015.  

A micro solution  

The good news is that there are now emerging technology solutions available that can give publishing companies a way to boost their online conversion rates and drive revenue. The key for them is to implement a solution that will lead to as frictionless a solution for payment as possible so as to persuade readers to put their hands in their digital pockets. By creating bespoke payment options that reflect customer preferences – for example, for one-off purchases and subscriptions – publishers can quickly be receiving income for content to offset the falling ad revenues that are crippling them.  

The solution is in many ways right in front of them. It has been well publicised how much consumers have become used to making micropayments in a variety of sectors. Apps that are initially free to download are expected to total $36.9 billion in micropayments this year. Today, a staggering 92 percent of smartphone users have made an in-app purchase, and four in ten (42 percent) have upgraded from a free app to a paid “pro” edition. Interestingly, despite so many upgrading, 88 percent of in-app purchases are made from an app’s free edition.  

Boosting conversion rates is just one publisher to benefit from this new thinking. By implementing a mobile payment option it has been able to give customers access to over 5,000 magazine titles from a single portal, so that they can access their content on the go. By using a flexible mobile billing solution, the company is able to offer a range of products and services, as well as one-off purchases and subscription billing.   

Customers can pay for individual magazines or subscriptions simply by entering their mobile phone number and completing a short SMS verification, charging the purchase to their mobile phone account or using prepay credit. Crucially, using a mobile payment solution means that customers don’t have to leave their mobile device at any point, ensuring high conversion rates. 

Filling the revenue void  

Publishers need to look at enhancing the billing options available to their customers to fill the ad revenue void. The key is not to fight against the tide, but rather allow consumers to make payments in line with wider technology trends and their shifting expectations.    

Many are becoming used to using their mobiles as a replacement wallet in their everyday offline lives too, this year the number of Apple Pay transactions in the UK has grown by 300 percent. The trend is likely to continue too as now over half of contactless payment terminals in the UK are able to take Apple Pay transactions of any value. Most card readers had previously been restricted to £30, the default upper limit for contactless card transactions. 

In the palm of their hands 

The mobile is the core to all our lives. We use it to bank, listen to music, take photos and yes, occasionally make a call. The trend to pay by mobile continues to grow and there is no surprise; frictionless payment mechanisms have been the solution to a global problem that has plagued all sorts of online merchants. Until recently, shopping cart abandonment was rife due to too much friction at point of checkout. A trend that was specifically magnified when it came to converting mobile shoppers. Yet, the latest Visa research shows that the number of Europeans who now regularly using a mobile device for payments has tripled since 2015, from 18% to 54%.  

Now more than ever you need to integrate a fast, secure and convenient payment method that reduces the hassle and friction thus far associated with processing payments for content. By publishers implementing mobile micropayment functionality to their content offerings means that consumers have the ability to pay for content literally in the palm of their hands. It also means that they can make frictionless payments using the source of funds that they already have with their mobile services provider. There’s no need to enter cumbersome credit card details or billing addresses, and no redirections away from your website or app.  

Shane Leahy, CEO of Tola Mobile (opens in new tab) 

Image Credit: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

Shane, CEO of Tola Mobile and 2012 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award finalist, has 16 years experience within the telecommunications industry. Prior to this he was a professional rugby player.