Bloomberg joins list of paywall publishers—but will readers subscribe?

The media organization announced a tiered subscription plan, and it’s not the only one to do so. How can these news outlets—and brand managers—persuade readers to pay for content?

Bloomberg is no longer offering its content for free.

The publisher is adopting a metered paywall: You can access 10 articles and 30 minutes of Bloomberg TV’s livestream each month, free of charge. After that, readers will be asked to purchase the “Digital” package for $34.99 each month or the “All Access” subscription for $39.99 monthly. Bloomberg is also offering readers a six-month trial of either package, which costs $9.99 per month.

Both subscriptions include access to the publication’s website and apps, along with its Bloomberg TV livestream, videos, podcasts and daily newsletters. The All Access pass also includes access to BloombergLIVE exclusive events and the publisher’s weekly magazine, Bloomberg Businessweek.

Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief, John Micklethwait, wrote in a letter to readers:

We have given Bloomberg.com a cleaner look and simplified our consumer app. We have also expanded our in-depth reporting in areas that we think you will appreciate—from economics and deals to wealth and opinion. You can now get text-to-audio that will read the news to you. To start your day, you can get The Bloomberg Open, a virtual newspaper delivered straight to your phone; and as you leave work, you will receive The Bloomberg Close. Both these newsletters will come in three regional editions—Europe, Asia and the Americas.

… So we are changing some things at Bloomberg. But our core mission remains the same—to provide you with the definitive chronicle of capitalism, in all its forms. We have built our name on smart, objective and data-based journalism from around the globe. We welcome your feedback—and thank you for reading this.

The announcement comes nearly a year after Bloomberg Media Group introduced the same tiered paywall to its Bloomberg Businessweek magazine. It’s another move in a long line of publishers placing their content behind paywalls to increase revenue.

NeimanLab.com reported:

$35 a month is a lot, though the 10 free articles are generous since many other publications have reduced the freebies (The New York Times, for instance, recently halved the free articles per month to five). The cost is in line with monthly subscriptions to WSJ.com ($37/month once subscription offers run out) and FT.com (about $33/month).

In January, The Atlantic reinstated a paywall it took down roughly a decade before. The publication also offers access to 10 free articles each month before directing readers to subscribe.

The Wall Street Journal reported:

“More than a million people come to our site 10 times or more every month,” [Bob Cohn, president of the Atlantic] said. “What we’re doing now is we’re saying to that group: ‘Help us continue to expand our journalism.'”

By putting up a paywall, the Atlantic joins a raft of publications, including Wired , Business Insider and CNN, that have announced plans to launch paid products recently to diversify their revenue in a digital ad market increasingly dominated by Google and Facebook. In recent weeks, BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti and Refinery29 co-founders Justin Stefano and Philippe von Borries have also been emphasizing the importance of building diverse revenue streams in the face of economic headwinds for media.

Vanity Fair also recently announced a paywall.

Digiday reported:

Starting April 24, after people read their fourth article in a month, they’ll be required to subscribe for $19.99 a year for either digital-only or print plus digital. (Video and slideshows will be exempt from the paywall.) To sweeten the offer, Vanity Fair also is rolling out a searchable archive of its articles, a subscriber-only newsletter and even considering giving subscribers access to its writers and editors.

“At a moment when quality journalism is not a luxury, but a necessity, it will enable us to invest in our reporting, writing, photography and video, expanding into new areas and onto new platforms, with you, our core readers and viewers, clearly in focus,” wrote Radhika Jones, Vanity Fair’s new editor-in-chief, in a note to readers.

In her letter to readers, Jones also wrote:

… It’s a move long in the making, driven by our desire to build our loyal digital audience into a true community—the kind that a subscriber-based ecosystem cultivates—and by our ambitions to deliver more to that community: more breaking news, more in-depth reporting, more voices in commentary and opinion, more access to our incredible archives, and more of the intelligent, prescient, agenda-setting journalism that for decades has been the trademark of Vanity Fair.

Installing paywalls can help publishers provide more researched and detailed content that offers readers value. By mitigating the race to get clicks—now a near-must for publishers’ survival—such a move also curbs the proliferation of fake news.

Paywalls provide a lucrative opportunity to news media outlets, as well.

The Drum reported:

Speaking to The Drum ahead of the new paywall going live, Scott Havens, global head of digital at Bloomberg Media explains the company is putting its products behind a paywall because, like other publishers that have gone down a similar path, Bloomberg considers paywalls as a part of a larger experiment.

He adds that the move was natural as, since 2015, Bloomberg’s reach has grown by 85% to 93 million monthly unique visitors across on-platform and off-platform digital content.

“In the first quarter this year, we achieved the highest traffic quarter on record for Bloomberg.com and we recorded the highest traffic month in March for our consumer app, since it relaunched a year and a half ago. Last year our digital ad revenues increased 26%. That momentum has continued into the first quarter, with digital revenues rising 12%,” claims Haven.

Slate reported:

… In an age where the Google-Facebook duopoly is hoovering up the lion’s share of digital ad revenue, online publications need subscription money to survive and to pay their employees…

Now, however, Bloomberg is putting up a paywall, despite the fact that it can’t make the same claim. Bloomberg’s journalists are paid out of the billions of dollars that its company’s financial terminal business earns every year, at $20,000 per terminal per year. Bloomberg LP could shutter the entire website tomorrow, and its journalists and journalism would continue on the terminals; it’s certainly not facing an existential threat.

… So why is the paywall going up? Partly because it can. Paywalls are so common nowadays that Bloomberg was effectively leaving money on the table by not having one.

However, persuading readers to pay for content is not an easy feat. Many Twitter users’ reactions to Bloomberg’s paywall looked like this:

There’s one big takeaway for communicators with this announcement and growing trend: Content can be valuable—but only if you can convince consumers that yours is more valuable than your competitors’.

Michael D’Oliveiro wrote in Mumbrella Asia that organizations adopting subscription-based models face a fight for members. One crucial element to success is providing a compelling value proposition.

D’Oliveiro wrote:

Millennials are getting more cynical after seeing their parents spend exorbitant amounts of money on printed publication subscriptions and heavy Pay-TV bundles over the years. With lock-in terms to boot. They see subscriptions for what it is, a great way to make money at their expense. So if you can’t articulate why you deserve to be paid – especially when there are free or cheaper alternatives – you are heading towards doom. And no, having a great user-experience is not a value proposition. It helps. But get your content or your service serving a purpose first.

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