As more and more news outlets start to charge for media and online content, should increased fees mean an increased investment in site and app performance?
The Telegraph Media Group is the latest national publication to be rumoured to charge for online content and, with ‘The Guardian’, ‘The Daily Mail’ and ‘The Independent’ launching paid-for apps, Keynote Systems argues that paid-for content should mean greater investment and focus on digital offerings. By Robert Castley.
By Robert Castley
Over the past few months, many UK news sources reported on the rumours that the Telegraph Media Group was preparing to be the latest outlet to charge for online content. Until now, only a few national media outlets are operating with a paywall, however, with the New York Times setting up a similar system towards the end of 2010, it is likely that paid-for content will become the norm. But how will potential and existing readers react to this change? If customers are being asked to pay for a service that they’re used to receiving for free, will they be willing to pay for the same online offering without any improvement to the service?
Recent research from KPMG suggests that online news consumers are still not sold on the idea of paying for content. When asked whether they’d continue to use their regular news site if it set up a paywall, 10% said yes, 11% said they didn’t know and 79% said no.
Many newspaper outlets have looked to avoid setting up paywalls by introducing paid for tablet-specific offerings and apps. Publications can develop their apps in-house and can charge for downloading the app initially, as well as encouraging repeat subscriptions. Outlets can also continue to generate revenue by selling advertising space in their tablet publications. However, online media consumption continues to dominate the market and if news outlets are intending to charge for content, they need to consider their Web site performance, usability and availability if they wish to retain unique users.
Every week, Keynote Systems monitors the performance and availability of 22 of the top UK news and media sites. The results from the first week of January reveal that many of the major outlets are struggling with availability and slow response times. The Daily Mirror suffered the most with an average response time of 9 seconds in the week commencing January 2nd.
The Times Web site, which adopted a paywall setup in June 2010, had an average response time for the week of 2.38 seconds making it the fastest of the national papers monitored. The Telegraph comes in just below the industry average with a time of 2.94 seconds. Paying customers are likely to expect more in terms of site performance if they are parting with money in return for access to news stories. Otherwise, there is a risk of driving readers away to competitor sites, if a paid-for offering is not up to scratch.
To avoid frustrating customers and losing potential subscribers, publications can look to implement site performance monitoring technology, which can alert content providers when there is an issue with site availability or download speed. This will help publications to attend to any issues before they drive readers away from their site.
As many commentators continue to argue that the future of the media is moving away from print and moving towards online, tablet editions and mobile sites and apps, it’s clear that news outlets will need to focus on digital offerings if they are to remain competitive. Media outlets must ensure an optimal end-user experience, regardless of the medium readers use to access content, if they expect customers to continue to access their outlet for a fee. As more and more outlets look set to adopt this approach, they need to ensure that the performance of their digital services is up to standard, otherwise they’ll risk losing subscribers and ultimately, risk affecting their bottom line revenue as news continues to move towards a digital age.
About the author
Robert Castley is a Solutions Consultant at Keynote Systems.
Keynote Systems is the global leader in Internet and mobile cloud monitoring. It provides companies with solutions for continuously improving the online experience. Founded in 1995, Keynote provides testing, monitoring and measurement products and services for any enterprise including online portals, e-commerce sites, B2B sites, mobile operators and mobile infrastructure providers. Keynote products and services help companies improve customer experience in four areas: Web performance, mobile quality, streaming and real user experience testing.