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OPINION Isn’t it time for publishers to wake up to mobile carrier billing?

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With news media lagging behind TV, music and gaming in getting digital subscriptions, is it time that the inky world of publishing looked again at carrier billing to drive more sign ups and sell more news? Hannah Giles, head of marketing at Fonix, says it is

According to a recent report by Deloitte, News Media lags behind TV, music and gaming digital subscriptions. The report found that in 2018, half of UK adults will have at least two media subscriptions on average, and by 2020 this will have doubled to four.

Traditional TV viewing among 18-24 year olds in the UK will fall by 10%-15% in 2018 and 2019 but the rate of decline may slow after this, according to new research by Deloitte. The UK media sector trends report suggested a ‘Great British switch off’ among younger viewers as demand for paid-for online media content continues to grow.

Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that the linear TV market and the news media’s pursuit of sustainable subscription services are just two of the trends that will drive the increase in subscriptions.

Netflix is notably the king of streaming services, with thousands of movies and TV shows. You can access Netflix around the world, and the company offers a number of monthly subscriptions levels with no minimum contract.

And then there’s Amazon, offering Prime, a yearly subscription service for one-day delivery, and also includes access to Prime Video, Prime Music, Twitch Prime, Prime Reading, and photo backup; this makes it the place to go for a range of content services. When it comes to music there’s Spotify Premium, which allows you to listen to any track from the 30m-plus library. You can take your music offline, remove ads and enable higher quality audio streams. But can you think of a news media service that has a successful subscription model?

Whether it’s over-charging for content, charging for irrelevant content or not making it easy to pay, this needs to be addressed. People love subscriptions – the Deloitte report estimates that there are 26 million subscribers in the UK for these types of services. We’ve seen that mobile carrier billing is widespread across music, gaming and digital subscriptions, with the likes of Spotify, Google and Microsoft integrating it as a core payment mechanic within their paywall. We know that mobile carrier billing has the capability to increase conversions in digital baskets by over 30%, so why not across news media too?

The New York Times, for example, has seen digital-only subscriptions increase by a huge 46.4%. The growth is clearly there, but with ever-declining advertising revenues, is offering credit card and Paypal really enough to get maximise conversion rates with the consumers who want to pay?

Will publishers finally catch on?

There’s huge growth in 18 to 34-year-olds who are willing to pay for journalism. To monetise in the most effective way possible, publishers need to understand and react to changing reader behaviour, have a data-driven understanding of what content the reader wants, apply the most appropriate payment model and provide consumers with choice when it comes to payment.

If there’s anything to learn from the last few years, it’s that it’s about taking consumers on a journey, enabling them to access and pay for content in a way that suits them. Most importantly, the payment model needs to reflect the readers requirements and paying for the content needs to be made as frictionless as possible.

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Editor and content creator for Telemedia – for 18 years and counting

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