Monetizing journalism in the mobile world: it is time to rock the boat.

In an epic scene on the third release of the Pirates of the Caribbean saga, Jack Sparrow discovers the only way to bring the becalmed Black Pearl back from the lost seas of the World´s End is… to turn it upside down!

This is probably a good metaphor for what I think is needed to make journalism economically viable in today´s mobile world.

“Shiver me timbers!”, I hear you say. Before you make me walk the plank, allow me to make my case. (Please do stay with me on the metaphor of turning things upside down to fix a dire situation. The pirate nature of our hero is secondary. And at any rate, he remains the hero!)

According to Pew Research Center (The Modern News Consumer / July 7th, 2016) “news remains an important part of public life. More than seven-in-ten U.S. adults follow national and local news somewhat or very closely, and 65% follow international news with the same regularity”.

Yes, journalism is still a product which people desire.
Dig deeper into the same report, and you will learn that professional media is the preferred source for news:
  • 36% of online news consumers rather obtain them from professional outlets. Not only are they the preferred source, but preferred by more than twice as many, over friends as an alternative source.
  • Professional media outlets generate twice as much trust as the social media.
  • 76% report turning to the same sources over and over again.

72% get their news from mobile, where advertising investment grew by 68% in 2015 to overtake desktop for the first time ever ($30Bn).

People want your product, you are the preferred vendor, and the investment in your market grows at double digit. We be making booty, aye? Wrong.

Overall digital ad revenue in Newspapers fell by 2% in 2015. “2015 was perhaps the worst year for newspapers since the Great Recession and its immediate aftermath”, says the Pew report.

Why?

There have to be many factors behind a trend this large and sustained over the years. The same research at Pew, points to an alarming finding: 74% of Americans think that news media are one-sided (compared to 35% when it comes to friends and family as a source). But there are scholars on journalism plenty more qualified than myself to elaborate on this sort of finding.

I´d like to argue that one of the main reasons why digital revenue of professional news media is so poor, is the experience is plain wrong (particularly on mobile). It needs to be reversed. It needs to be turned upside down.

In a world where free and immediate have become basic requirements of just about any digital offering, media outlets are attempting to either charge for its content or delay its access. Paywalls fail. And the delay created by the traditional advertising model, based on interruption, has spurred users into ad-blocking. Growing at a rate of 90% YoY, and already reaching half a billion users.

  • Do people think journalism is not worth paying for? No.
  • Do people hate brands? No.
  • Do people hate advertising? Again, no.

What people HATE is losing control over their mobile experience.

They dislike the idea of not being able to have full control over their smartphone, which is not just a personal device, but an intimate one. Because they live on a purely on-demand world, they reject the notion of not being able to choose what and when something is shown to them.

The essence of the advertising model is for people to pay their attention. If they don´t, the system collapses. How about trying to make it easier to pay attention?

Since 2014, we have been building a platform in which users may trade time of attention, for time of use of premium content.

Rather than imposing people when and what to watch, Paytime lets people choose which ads they find relevant, and decide when is the right time to engage with them. Ads become less annoying (actually, interesting). Brands obtain a higher ROI and are willing to pay. Publishers earn proper revenue (+10x, by our estimates).

Here is how it works:

Say you are waiting at the airport, or sipping your latte, or in between meetings. One of those many moments through the day when you have a few minutes to spare. Clicking on Paytime (and ONLY when you click), will signal your availability into PTX, our electronic exchange for time of attention. A selection of your preferred brands will propose a content they will like to show you. Your opt-in profile allows Paytime to offer you brand content you will likely find relevant. But rather than second-guessing you, like contextual advertising, you are the only one deciding which brand content is actually relevant to you now. When you choose, you are shown a video and asked a few questions. That´s it. You have paid your attention, thank you very much. Now you may use your time-credit to buy the premium content you want.

Up to 80% of Americans between ages 18 and 54 want to use Paytime. 42% of them, specifically to pay for their news on-line.

And those most prone to use it are current ad-block users living in households with the highest income (>$75k/year). The kind of people who value their time. The kind of people who value quality journalism. Incidentally, we conducted the same research in the UK with consistent results.

The average viewability of an ad in Paytime is 82%.

And this is full length of the video, not the 1”@50% industry standard. Consequently, CTR and lead KPIs are orders of magnitude above conventional digital advertising. Hence the revenue improvement for the publisher. Brands pay more, because they get more in return.

Publishers can easily integrate it into their webs and apps, offering their readers a new payment alternative.

If your readers do not want to pay cash and find conventional advertising so annoying they´d rather block it, now you can offer them a third option. One designed specifically to match their habits in mobile content consumption.

To learn more about Paytime and how you may start offering it to your readers, you can reach me at Ignacio.linares@paytimeapp.com.

This is the green flash you have been waiting for. All hands ahoy, let´s rock the boat!