Subscription Website Publishing is Here to Stay
Over the last five years, the world of online publishing has radically changed.
At the end of the 1990s, internet users expected online content to be free. After the dot-com bubble burst, many specialist content providers decided to charge for access to their premium content. Gradually, the perception that internet content should be free has lessened. Indeed, people wishing to gain access to specialist information and mix with their peers in an exclusive ‘club’ have embraced members-only sites.
There are now thousands of niche sites with anywhere from 500 to 100,000 subscribers. Many of these sites are relatively small and tend to get overlooked when market size estimates are being put together. Even so, the analysts’ figures still show a rapid growth in the purchase of content online:
· Paying for online content has become widely accepted. Online content revenues in the US grew from $0.7bn in 2001 to $2bn in 2005. In the UK, the BBC estimates that the sale of online content will grow from £80m in 2004 to £400m in 2007 (these figures exclude the biggest category, adult content).
· More consumers are paying for online content. In Q4 2005, 20.6 million US consumers paid an average of $103.54 each for online content.
· There is a greater acceptance of paying for online content by subscription. In the US, 80% of online content sales are purchased via subscription.
· Print media, particularly newspapers and magazines, are losing readership to the internet. In 2005 in the US, newspaper sales fell three percent, which is the largest single-year decrease ever recorded. This took circulation figures down to levels last seen in the 1960s. Magazine sales are at the lowest level since tracking started 30 years ago.
· Eighty-five percent of 18-24 year olds have access to the internet. Members of the ‘born-digital’ generation who use the internet as their primary information source now have discretionary income and spend much of it online.
· Declining fear of credit card fraud and greater willingness to pay online. In 2005, 59% of UK adults made online credit card payments
(Source: All figures from the Online Publishers Association, 2006, unless alternative source mentioned.)