How Facebook and Google could disrupt the subscription model for news
Frederic Filloux
18819

Yes, news pricing needs to become dynamic! The idea of a one-size-fits-all, all-you-can-eat subscription at a single pre-set price is foolish, especially for a product that has no marginal cost.

There are new ways to do that specifically tuned to digital content like news, as I recently outlined in a post, What Lies Beyond Paywalls — A Better Way, building on a recent NiemanLab prognostication:

NiemanLab’s astute 2017 prediction piece entitled What Lies Beyond Paywalls (by David Skok of the Toronto Star) explains how advanced marketing technology can change paywalls. I agree, and suggest that FairPay provides an important complement to that — pointing to a new way to use this technology in an even more effectively predictive, anticipatory, powerful — and win-win — way. The idea is to go farther beyond current paywalls, in a new, more “customer-first” dimension:
— from one-sided, zero-sum relationships, where the publisher uses this technology to unilaterally impose a price on the reader in a smarter way
— to cooperative, win-win relationships, where the publisher uses this technology to motivate the customer to participate in setting a price that both parties accept as fair value — at least for the important subset of users who can be enticed to cooperate — and it is those who are likely to provide the most Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
Skok nicely projects the skilled application of advanced marketing technology to journalism: “We can combine machine learning, predictive, and anticipatory analytics to optimize the value exchanged from this reader, on this device, coming from this platform, on this article, at this exact moment in time. In other words, a dynamic meter.”
I agree that a dynamic meter is central to the answer — but suggest we need to go beyond our narrow 20th century mindset about how the meter is used. Instead of continuing to to unilaterally impose prices — even if based on smarter metering — I suggest we apply our smarter meter to engage the reader in a more cooperative approach to our value exchange relationship.

My post goes on to explain how FairPay does that, and how it can make journalism sustainable.

As to how to move toward dynamic pricing, I suggest that there is a third option (not that an agreement with Facebook and/or Google, or others like Amazon or Blendle might not be a good one, or that the largest news publishers could not do it in-house): that is to work with subscription business platform providers that could build common infrastructure for many publishers. Examples are Zuora (an innovative leader in subscriptions as a service) and Piano (which has subsumed Press+ and Tinypass). I have spoken to top executives at both about adding FairPay pricing processes to their systems, and understand they would be quite willing and able to do that.