Media Camp Athens 2010 follow-up

Thank you MCA2010!

(13 April 2010)

Beyond my expectations the "Paper-less publishing, no ads please" session had 35 attendees from diverse disciplines. Its unexpected popularity did not allow us to run it as a BoF and therefore I had to alter its format on the spot. For that matter many of you were left wanting more. Many also pointed out that I didn't conclude the presentation with specific answers to what is the best non ad-based revenue model for on-line publishers, just hints and good food for thought.

In the future I hope that we can repeat it. I also promise to restructure the session for higher attendance. In addition and since many of you asked me, I will also attempt to run smaller workshops as well. In the mean time I will try to provide some answers.

Session output

During the session each participant was asked to suggest a plausible revenue stream for paper-less publishing, which we then clustered. From this exercise the following non ad-based revenue streams were suggested:

Charging for content
  • Subscriptions
  • Pay-per-view
  • Donations
  • Affiliate blogging (dedicate a section or site to some brand)
  • Advertorial content (but state that you're being paid to do so)
  • Sell products
  • Sell premium services
  • Sell recommendations (and therefore products)
  • Act as intermediaries between audience and content and sell filtering

Above, I have attempted to further categorise the clusters (meta-clustering?) in order to make them easier to remember.

My view

I don't want to suggest what is the best solution for each one as I don't believe there is a silver bullet.

Having said that, I believe that the first category is suitable for publications where timeliness and scarcity of publicly available information benefit the beholder of the content and thus make them willing to pay for it. I also think that donations probably won't work either.

Sponsorship models which are a form of advertising, in my opinion run the risk of alienating the audience and/or the sponsor in a tick of the clock. A publication needs to build and maintain trust with its audience which is always one click away from its competition (and so are advertisers). Transparency is critical and trust is a hard earned currency that can be lost in a split second and may never be earned back again. I feel that in the case of sponsorship models the balancing between sustainable profits, opinion, objectivity and trust is extremely difficult to achieve and then maintain. Consequently it is very risky to bet money on.

The current trend towards e-tailing, is in my view very healthy and one that we'll see being adopted (and evolved) more and more. Monetising audiences through the direct sale of goods (tangible or otherwise) is the next common-sense step for publishers on-line. I also consider the sale of applications (mobile or otherwise) a very important part of this mix.

Matching recommendation services with e-tailing in my view will be pivotal for the future of paper-less publishing.

I was happy to see that this idea of recommendations and filtering intermediaries emerged in the session. Something that I wish we had more time to examine. Although it may sound exotic to include recommender systems within a publication, we have to note that a magazine is effectively a crude filter (and thus a sort of a recommender). In a magazine, the editor and publishing team create and assort for the benefit of the audience relevant material and thus filter out what is not important. When we consume a magazine, someone else has already done a lot of the information gathering and filtering for us!

The new model is a mix

The function of a media company is to acquire, maintain and monetise audiences.

For non-financial paper-less publications (that are not of the massive scale of Yahoo for example), I believe that sustainable monetisation can be achieved with a mix of revenue streams that do not vitally and solely rely on advertising.

Paper-less publications + e-tailing + recommenders in my opinion mix very well together.

I hope that we can discuss about all these in the future:-)


"Paper-less publishing, no ads please"

(1 April 2010)

You are welcome to attend a BoF session at the 3rd Media Camp Athens event. As I am organising this session on non advertising-based revenue models for paper-less media, I'd like to gauge interest in the above subject.

Are you also thinking that traditional print-media business models don't make sense in the epoch of paper-less publishing? Probably yes, that is why I'd like to invite you to this session.

During the BoF we will discuss about sustainable revenue models for paper-less publishing (with a focus on magazines and newspapers) that are not based on advertising.

My observation is that advertising prices will not go back to their old price levels and that the "analogue dollars to digital pennies" trade-off experienced with on-line advertising will get even worse. As a result I cannot see how existing business models which primarily rely on advertising can support publishers on-line.


Today, traditional print-media publishers (on-line and off-line) have to deal with the overabundance of free and good enough content on-line. The plethora of channels created by on-line (amateur) publishers has created an unprecedented over-supply and hence value destruction that is pushing ad inventory prices down. Such pricing cannot support the print-media habits of the past.

“It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem.” -- NYU Prof. Clay Shirky March, 2009.

At the same time it seems that on-line advertising is increasingly failing as audiences are learning to technologically and mentally filter-out ads. This is so, because "The problem is not the medium, the problem is the message, and the fact that it is not trusted, not wanted, and not needed", as Prof. Eric K. Clemons from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsilvania puts it.

So, if you are interested in paper-less publishing come to this BoF session!