Trends in Publishing, Advertising and Paid Subscription Model

The economic downturn is hitting everyone hard. Online content models and advertising is one of the harder hit areas. Long before the beginning of the market freefall, advertising revenues began declining. Evidence shows that, while print and television advertising is declining at an incredible rate, online advertising is not faring much better. The saving grace in online advertising is that, while it is declining, it is declining at a lower rate than offline advertising.

However, it is still declining.

The days of making money online via advertising would, by most accounts, seem to be over and with it comes the question, “How exactly do we make our industry profitable again?”

Conventional wisdom suggests that there are two models. The first is the advertising model. The second is a paid subscription model. Though we have been brainwashed to expect free at every turn, part of me wonders if a paid subscription model would work better. Surely, readers are willing to pay a small fee for access to valuable content?

For my part, I am considering a switch to a paid model. It is my belief that the content found here is worth paying a small fee for. In exchange, such a model would eliminate advertising and would probably be in the neighborhood of $5 a month. But I want to talk to you first.

Does this make sense to you? Would you be willing to support the emergence of a new model that benefits the larger community and how content business models evolve for a low price?

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Feed Subscriptions Are So Important

When I left b5media, I had established a base of over 1300 feed subscribers on this blog. I was proud of that because, let’s face it, if you aren’t a news site breaking news all the time, people are not as inclined to subscribe to a feed.

The feed at that time was hosted via FeedBurner with whom the network had an enterprise account with. As a member blog of b5media, and one of the folks that tested and pushed FeedBurner on the network, my blog was one of the first hosted under their CNAME policy. The CNAME policy allowed us to brand feeds with b5media (http://feeds.b5media.com as opposed to http://feeds.feedburner.com).

Obviously, I had some branding concerns to deal with and I contacted FeedBurner for a solution that would allow me to take control of my feed and retain the subscriber base I had established over a period of time.

FB: Simple. We can transfer it under your Feedburner account if you’d like
Me: Yeah, let’s do that.
FB: Oh wait, your feed is under the Feedburner Ad Network and so because of financial logistics involved with b5media owning that feed URI, we cannot transfer it. But, you can burn a new feed, delete the old and use 30 day redirection to send people to the new feed.
Me: Okay, that makes sense.

And off I went. I burned the new feed, deleted the old with redirection, and looked at numbers over the next few days. My feed subscribers had dropped to almost a third of what they were (down to about 400 subscribers).

By the time I realized that I had been nipped in the bud by the CNAME issue, it was too late and all those subscribers were gone with no way to communicate to them about re-subscription.

Over the past 3 months, I have rebuilt to around 850 – still a large distance from where I was, but slowly getting there. If you haven’t re-subscribed yet, please do so now.

Takeaways

Feeds are our bread and butter in blogging. Knowing that there are people subscribed to a blog, provides direct value to bloggers. It helps us understand the dissemination of our content and the reach of our audience. We value page-views, obviously, but feed subscriptions may be the most tangible metric of actual reach available.

When you find a blogger that you enjoy, vote with your feet (or clicking finger) and add their blog to Google Reader or one of the other many feed readers (most of which are free). We really do appreciate it. It makes us feel that the work we’re putting in is actually making a difference.

Other feeds that we provide:

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