About a week ago, English-language magazine Outlook introduced an innovative feature on its website. While reading an article on Outlook’s website, users are now confronted with a popup which asks them to either “continue (reading) free with ads” or “pay Rs 1 to read without ads”.
Elaborating on the feature, Indranil Roy, Executive Director at Outlook Group said, “If you want an ad-free and clutter free space then this is the kind of options that we are providing.” Stressing that it is too early to evaluate the success of the measure, he stated that the website had recorded some transactions.
Roy maintained that the idea was not to generate a high number of transactions but acquainting the readers with the notion of paying for news. “We are the only company in India that has done it,” he said. Presently, readers can easily signup on the website and conduct a simple OTP transaction to enjoy an ad-free experience.
exchange4media has learnt that Outlook Group gradually plans to roll-out daily and monthly passes on the same line. Business Standard is one daily newspaper that has partially protected its website by means of a paywall. In the digital sphere, The Ken has embarked on an unlikely path wherein they have chosen to be driven by subscriptions.
While the Indian media is known to command a substantial online readership base, most domestic news organisations have shied away from embracing paywalls in the digital world. The CEO of a multimedia company with a digital thrust felt that the “market was not yet ready” for it though they were prepared to experiment with paywalls in the case of competitors opting for the radical route.
In his thirties, a young Anant Goenka has overseen the digital expansion of The Express Group. For now, he is not keen on having a paywall at IE but is welcoming of it. “We would definitely welcome and encourage any experiment with a paywall. Any move to make Indians get in the habit of paying for any kind of content is welcome,” said Goenka, Executive Director at The Express Group.
Conceding that it is extremely challenging to survive in the digital news business solely on the basis of ad revenue, he stated that “subscription income would make digital journalism more viable” and “hence less susceptible to pressures”. On a cautious note, he added that one can nevertheless be influenced irrespective of the business model if he/she is open to it.
In the pursuit of finding new ways of monetization, Goenka placed his bet on native collaborated content. “It's been only 5 years. We have grown from 4 million to 75 million global unique visitors a month. We have a long way to go to monetising this inventory,” he said.
As the scale of digital news media grows with both the expansion of media conglomerates and emergence of new businesses, it would be interesting to observe the measures that companies will undertake to monetize their operations in the times ahead. Outlook magazine’s initiative is a small step aimed at testing the waters for an ad-free digital media business model.