At the SXSW Conference held from Friday, 8 March to Sunday, 17 March in Texas, a key theme that arose was that 2019 sees the dawn of premium content.

What makes content ‘premium’? Well, Techopedia defines it as “a type of digital content that may be accessed for a fee, and is usually of higher quality or more desirable than free content.”

The conference was filled with premium content providers, from Amazon Prime and Netflix to podcast networks Gimlet and Anchor.

In an article for HubSpot, Amanda Zabtal-Wiener says that the Netflix-model really highlighted that advertising is not the only way to do things — subscription models can work.

“But as more platforms have jumped onto the ‘premium content platform’ bandwagon, the idea of how to appropriately monetise and support that content, while also making it accessible to consumers, has become more and more complex.”

This message is also clear with the #PrintVsDigital debate; people want quality content, but they aren’t yet convinced that they should be paying for it. But — good news — the media space is finally starting to get some relief and see their paid-for models gaining some traction.

2019 heralds the beginning of a bright future for media. While the previous years showed a steady decline for the industry, the coming years for media are filled with hope, and it is not — as many predicted — the end of an era.

Media is in a state of flux

2017 to 2018 was a time of uncertainty for publications, advertisers and readers alike. While many print publications closed down, many others opted to adjust their print run to offer fewer editions in a year. While this does show that there was a decline in print media, it also highlights that there is still a role for print. Why would print publications keep going if the industry was doomed?

Many print publications chose to become digital-only, but many of those failed as they were unable to secure solid funding that print advertising offered.

There is still a role for print,
Readers were in a state of confusion, as many chose digital news offerings over print because it was freely available. Why buy a print publication when you can find the same information online for free?

Some publications began experimenting with paywalls and subscription models but were unsure of how exactly to convince consumers to pay for online content. Having always relied on ad spend to stay afloat, publications suddenly had to convince unsure readers to pay for content.

However, with the eruption of fake news scandals throughout 2017, readers began to realise that quality news may indeed have to come at a price.

Readers want quality, not quantity

While the rise of digital media saw hundreds of new blogs and websites pop up all over the website, not all of them offer high quality, premium information.

In line with this insight, online media database Target Media Directory (TMD) says fewer websites were added as online sources to their database in 2018 compared to 2017. This is because quality news has become the main priority for readers.

TMD took note of this, thoroughly vetting every publication before adding it to their database, and only added news sites that were found to be noteworthy, trustworthy and relevant (i.e. publications that did not publish fake news).

Between 2017 and 2018, TMD noted that there were 58% more publications that were discontinued, highlighting that the majority of print publications were unable — or unsure — of how to keep readers coming back for more.

Media strategies have to be adjusted.

Print publications cannot simply republish the same (printed) content online and expect readers to be satisfied, and pay for it. A new strategy needs to be put into place for the digital publication as it is essentially a ‘new’ offering. And a new offering = a new strategy. Additionally, readers have to understand that quality journalism comes at a price.

The media landscape is in a state of flux; 2017 and 2018 saw publications, advertisers and readers alike struggle to navigate their way through uncharted waters.

Readers have to understand that quality journalism comes at a price,
It is only now, in 2019, that the media sphere is beginning to find its feet. Publications like The Guardian and BusinessLIVE are beginning to see success with their paywalls and subscription models, so for the media, there is in fact light at the end of the tunnel.

What do you think the future holds for the media industry? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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The Guardian is a prime example that the media sphere is finally heading in a positive direction, because as it Turns out, print can be profitable.