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Know Your Value - Brand Republic Editor Rich Sutcliffe on the move to a metered paid model

The theme of this year's AOP Summit on 14 October is: 'Publishers: Know your Worth' - with that in mind, we ask our Headline Media Partner Brand Republic's Editor, Rich Sutcliffe, to update us on its shift to a metered paid model in the past few months:

Rich SutcliffeBrand Republic Editor Rich Sutcliffe
Do we know our value? It has been the question of the summer at the Brand Republic Group. At the moment our best guess is £155, plus VAT. Frankly, a snip, but then I’m biased. In July Brand Republic - and its group titles Campaign, Marketing, Media Week and PR Week – introduced metered access. The months leading up to launch felt nothing short of momentous, as we addressed technical and structural issues, editorially and commercially. Our most important task, though, was to take our journalists with us; a process complicated by the fact that while simultaneously setting out to convince 60 plus editorial staff it was the right move, one was grappling an ideological attachment to ‘free’. Get beyond the rather highfalutin ‘search for the truth’ aspect of journalism and its practitioners yearn for pretty simple things. We want to be read and we want to be paid. If you break a great story you want it to reach as many people as possible. So telling a news desk, albeit a supportive one, that you are taking a path that could lead to fewer readers was not a conversation to begin without clarity of thought. Given our collective addiction to reach, it’s apt that the ‘know your value’ theme could quite easily be lifted from the 12 step programme. We could all use a bit of therapy to wean us off the idea that clocking an extra million uniques naturally equates to success, and that how many people read a story has a direct effect on the impact it makes. Ask yourselves this. If The Guardian charged a few quid a week for access to its website would the Milly Dowler hacking story, although read at source by far fewer people, have had any less impact? I would argue not. Nor do I accept the idea that by charging readers it impedes a publication’s ability to land great stories or limit its role in wider discourse. Our experience, such as it is, would certainly suggest otherwise. Neither have we seen any discernible drop off in traffic. Some, month-on-month, but given the News of the World scandal broke in the month prior to our paywall going up, Princess Diana would have had float down from heaven and announce she was appearing in the M&S Christmas campaign for us to get close to the numbers News International’s woes were delivering. And guess what? People are subscribing.  It would be wrong to suggest that charging for access is right for every editorial product, equally wrong to see it as anything more than one of many potential revenue streams. If the paid content debate is drawing your organisation’s attention away from maximising revenues from data, events, commerce or otherwise, you should probably forget it and refocus. But having been through the process, and lived, it’s hard now to see what all the fuss was about. Quality journalism incurs cost, but holds value, and we believe it should be paid for.

Brand Republic LogoBrand Republic is the Headline Media Partner of the AOP Summit, taking place on 14 October. AOP members can claim a 10% discount on subscriptions to the Brand Republic Group of titles. Click here to subscribe - offer closes 7th October.