Execs from NYT, Bloomberg, Vox Media discuss building a better paywall
For media companies, this is a time of radical reinvention, marked by innovation-by-necessity—and not a few layoffs. Times are tough out there for publishers.
There have been a few bright spots. Over the past couple of years, new paywalls have popped up across the media landscape—emboldened by the likes of The New York Times, which is halfway to its goal of 10 million subscribers by 2025, according to its most recent earnings call this month. Others, like New York Media, continue to tweak existing subscription models; publishing executives at outlets like Bloomberg Media increasingly talk about balancing scale versus reader revenue, how to convince marketers of the value of highly loyal audiences, and the true costs of customer acquisition for closed content ecosystems.
Last week we held an event called Ad Age Next: Publishing here in New York to bring together media executives from some of the best brands in the world to explore the industry’s challenges and—more interesting—opportunities, in subscriptions, events, ecommerce, tech and more. The latest edition of the “Ad Lib” podcast is a live recording of a conversation I had with three media titans about where things stand for them as they lean into the subscription and paywall models.
Joining me on stage, in the order that they spoke, were Pam Wasserstein, who was last week named president of Vox media after it merged with New York Media, Scott Havens, global head of digital and media distribution for Bloomberg Media Group, and Nina Lassam, executive director of ad innovation at The New York Times. All three shared a few thoughts on building a better paywall—and their concerns that a saturation point can’t be too far behind.
Some are further along than others: The New York Times set its ambitious digital roadmap in 2016. Bloomberg redesigned 18 months ago and launched its first-ever paywall. New York Media began aggressively experimenting with payment models a year ago. All have important lessons to impart about audiences, the advertising ecosystem and making something people are willing to pay for.
Listen to the podcast above for their core takeaways.