An open letter on the future of news media

We believe in the freedom of speech.

We believe in journalistic excellence.

We believe the digital revolution has started a bolder age in media and democracy.

We believe that there’s a place for quality journalism, and that there always will be. And we absolutely think it needs to be compensated.

We believe that readers today are calling the shots. They now have the power to discover and consume content whenever and wherever they want to.

We believe that isolationism and internalization have never worked, whether you’re talking politics, economics or publishing.

The world today may have geographic boundaries, but borders between people and content no longer exist.

The opportunities this offers publishers, readers and advertisers are truly endless, and here’s why:

We’ve created an incredibly simple and fair model that allows publishers to reach more readers than ever, grow their audience, and drive revenue at the same time. Readers can enjoy some content on our platform for free, or they can pay for premium content themselves. We also partner with thousands of businesses around the world who sponsor access to our entire catalog of 5,000+ titles for their customers, clients, employees and visitors. In a nutshell, every time someone pays us for content, we pay the publisher. Best of all, it doesn’t cost publishers a thing to join PressReader. This is ridiculously simple, right?

Let’s make dollars and sense of it all.

So why wouldn’t a publisher want to be part of this? Frankly, we’re not sure. But as you may have noticed, some of the News Corp. Australia titles you’re used to reading are no longer available on PressReader. This is the strange choice – or perhaps myopic mistake – of someone at News Corp. Australia HQ. They’ve penalized their readers, who pay to access their content through us – not just in Australia, but all over the Americas, Europe, Asia, and even in Antarctica. They’ve also given up all the revenue opportunities that come with distribution on our platform and beyond. This includes exposure to millions of readers through business partners like Qantas, major libraries and thousands of hotels throughout Australia and abroad. News Corp. Australia now wants all of these readers to subscribe directly to their individual paywalls. But..

What do readers want?

There are readers – let’s call them brand loyalists – who do indeed subscribe to one single title. There are other readers who want access to the whole universe of content (and some of them will become brand loyalists through the content that they discover).

When it comes to payment, there are those who are prepared to pay a lot for good content. There are those who are prepared to pay nothing. And there are those who would consider paying for content if the price was right. The truth of the matter is that willingness to pay for news is declining at a record pace, with only 3% of readers willing to spend $10/month, and only 6% open to paying $5/month. To top it off, trust in traditional media is trending in the wrong direction.

What does it mean for publishers?

As John Stackhouse, past editor-in-chief for The Globe and Mail (Canada’s national newspaper) shared with us recently, “in the past publishers created content that was often journalism-centric, and not audience-centric.  But one of the great shifts in today’s digital ecosystem is that there are all sorts of new providers, not only media, who are becoming much more audience-centric (e.g. Netflix). The producers of that content may not like it, but consumers love it.”

This means publishers can only thrive in today’s world if they’re reader-first. They need to put the reader at the center of every editorial decision, advertising decision, pricing decision, distribution decision, business decision, product/service decision, design decision and corporate culture… reader-first.

And as for News Corp. Australia, our door is always open.

So what now? Business as usual.

PressReader will continue to grow rapidly with readers, businesses, publishers and advertisers – those who share our vision for the future of news media.

Let’s talk.

We held a live Twitter chat on January 20th about the #FutureofNewsMedia. Check out our recap of the event here. Stay tuned for more similar events coming soon!

– The PressReader Team, Vancouver, Canada