Bait ’em, hook ’em…bill ’em: Getting readers to pay

Despite rent to pay and money to save for long contemplated travel plans on a salary that barely covered the tabs, the internet bill is one always first accounted for. And why? I decided to forfeit subscription fees of well loved magazines I had grown up with for a virtual word of free and limitless information. So, when former journalist and author of Free: The Future of a Radical Price, Chris Anderson wrote in an article – “For the Google Generation, the Internet is the land of the free” – I wasn’t about to disagree.

Former Tribune Company President Jack Fuller once said the most stupid thing newspapers and magazines ever did was to give the content away for free online. As a reader, I wasn’t complaining but as a journalist, should I be expected to produce news for free? Oh, the impertinence!

With advertising revenues drying up with the ink of fresh print, the good audience will realize they can’t be subsidized forever. So, while I still love my freebies and will continue to trawl the web for free good stuff, once you do hook me, I’ll tire of these pop-ups (see below) and yes! direct me to subscription page please. Bait them, hook them and get them to pay. A business model born of necessity.

Capture NYT 3

With newspapers tightening their belts readers can only be thankful for the 10 free reads

Screen Capture globe and mail

Missing the postman – convergence is driving audiences online

In Ulaanbaatar, door-step delivery of newspapers is non-existent and the poor quality of local reporting and paucity of English news sources drives most urban news readers and resident foreigners to the internet.

Personally, my web-dependency for news has evolved my browsing habits. I no longer visit  specific websites but  have tailored my social media feeds to provide me the news I like to follow. Twitter, Google News and Facebook provide my daily news stream.

And recent findings have shown I’m not alone. This March, the Guardian discovered Facebook referrals drove 30 percent of its 70 million unique monthly browsers to their website, a case point for news organizations turning to social media to boost traffic. Online sharing is also shaping and indentifying niche audiences, as an interesting study by social researchers at the New England Complex Systems Institute have shown  by mapping news-sharing communities on Twitter to identify social structures and shared networks. The study focused only on New York Times readers but identified several common interest clusters within this seemingly uniform demographic.

In short, with growing web-dependency for news, convergence allows for tighter niche following and for the frequent traveler with no-fixed address, the web is the complete media aggregator.

Future-proofed but content loose: Mongolia’s media convergence blues

ImageCommuters preview the day’s headlines at a bus-stop news stand in Ulaanbaatar, where the wide media range is  often overshadowed by unprofessional standards and non-transparent ownership. 

Numerically, post-communist Mongolia’s media is flourishing. In 2011, the Press Institute’s survey counted 430 media outlets – 130 newspapers, 102 magazines, 95 TV stations, 72 radio stations and 31 “active” websites for a population of under three million. But local watchdog, Globe International, reports that non-transparent ownership, persecution of journalists and forced censorship continue to restrict freedom and quality of journalism with many news outlets functioning as propaganda vehicles for their sponsors.

Parallelly, growth in mobile phone and internet subscriptions is driving more users to the internet for news, in turn encouraging independent online news providers. Internet users grew from 30,000 in 2000 to 350,000 within a decade according to the website  internetworldstats.com.  Mobile phone subscriptions stand at 2,750,000 –  over two thirds of the entire population while the country’s largest mobile service provider MobiCom, claims one million of their subscribers own internet enabled devices in a recent article.

The time seems ripe for media convergence in Mongolia but content wise, convergence is still static. Multimedia barely registers on news sites.  Tactical cross-promotional convergence is growing between online news providers. News.mn, which has over 34,556 likes on their Facebook page, shares links to Baabar.mn, another news site and Toimsetguul.mn, a news magazine with active online presence and hosts video snippets from Eagle TV, a news channel. Infomongolia.com, another news site hosts a streaming English news program sponsored by Toim, the news magazine and produced by NTV, a local TV station. Online content is still rudimentary but collaborations like these are paving the way for future digital convergence in Mongolia.