Association of online publishers Helping media owners build better digital business

Interview: Bill Murray on paid content

Digital media consultant Bill Murray will join the panel on paid content at the AOP Summit on 7 October.

The Twitter hashtag for the event is #aop3c.

Bill currently works across a portfolio of digital and media organisations, providing strategic and commercial direction on an advisory and consultancy basis. These include, amongst others, AOP, 10ACT, DN Capital, JackBrand and Accelerated Path.

Latterly he served as Managing Director of Digital Strategy at Haymarket where he pioneered online business development across the Haymarket Group and lead a number of successful launches and acquisitions.

With a number of publishers apparently moving towards charging for more content online, are there any lessons from the past here? Didn't a number of publishers try this in the 'web 1' phase?

I think the world has changed from ‘last time around’. Broadband has arrived and along with it a richness of experience, content and functionality that is way beyond anything consumers experienced 8-10 years ago.

So the level of engagement and consequent value they can obtain is clearly greater. So to make judgements about what may be possible on the basis of what didn’t work then, is to compare apples with cabbages!

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in August launched a members-only subscription site, offering new paid content and services on top of its standard free content - is this a model we might see more of, as opposed to pay walls simply locking content away from readers and search engines?

It’s interesting. I tend to agree with Eric Schmidt’s recent comment that while it is unlikely anyone will ever get very far trying to charge for news, there are certainly more specialist, deeper, expert or very high quality content that will command payment.

This example points in that direction but is, I suspect, just the start. Ultimately, I believe those that succeed will be 'selling' much more than content – while that may be at the heart of the proposition, it will be the creative integration of functionality and services that really add value to the consumers’ experience that will command true value.

In your view, have publishers sufficiently differentiated their web content from print/broadcast TV and radio?

Getting better all the time, but always room to do even better. We now have many experts with similarly developed creative skill sets developed and honed in the online space as has always been the case in the traditional space.

But this remains an incredibly young, new medium so we shouldn’t expect everyone’s delivery to be as fine-tuned and perfect yet. Nonetheless, consumers are demanding, and are increasingly clear on what they want and can be very fickle. So high performance here is a competitive requirement.

Is there any truth, do you think, in the suggestion (made in PaidContent) that paywalls for online news might be "an exercise in promoting printed newspapers"?

If it is true, then I fear it is short-sighted. Print and web are different media channels and used by consumers in different ways at different times. Of course they can be complementary and cross-promote, in fact that’s a very definite advantage that established, traditional media owners have.

But to start making such things conditional is a very dangerous game, especially if it’s news. News is not exclusive to anyone (has arguably become rather commoditised). For sure if anyone pits the slightest barrier in the way of what you know you want, the fickle consumer knows it is the work of two quick clicks to get it elsewhere.

Bill Murray will join the panel on paid content at the AOP Summit on 7 October.

Join the AOP group on LinkedIn - open for all Members to join
Subscribe to AOP's e-newsletter.