World Association of News Publishers

Rise of Media Paywalls and Customisation of Reader Experience - will 2019 be the year paid content go up in Asia?

Rise of Media Paywalls and Customisation of Reader Experience - will 2019 be the year paid content go up in Asia?

Hong Kong – 2018-11-08

Major Asian news publishers are mulling the prospect of erecting paywalls as consumers grow accustomed to paying for music and movie streaming services. While a handful of digital pure plays in Asia such as DealStreetAsia, TechinAsia, Coconuts Media and subscription-from-the-start MalaysiaKini have embarked on payment models for their content, larger newspaper companies have largely shied away from charging for fear of losing readers, preferring to rely on digital advertising instead.

With digital advertising unable to make up for the huge falls in print advertising revenue*, news publishers are seriously considering taking the paid route after encouraging signs. Singapore Press Holdings was an early starter, embarking on a paid subscription model over 13 years ago which has evolved over significantly over time. Last year, Indonesia’s Kompas Daily launched its paid website,, which carries premium content over its free, advertising-funded cousin, And more Asian publishers will be following suit.

At Digital Media Asia 2018, industry leaders from all the region’s major news organisations are gathering in Hong Kong on November 8-9, 2018 to explore the various evolving business models in the news world. They will also celebrate the success stories of the early adopters, which have experimented with a variety of approaches such as hard, metered, freemium and hybrid paywalls, micropayments, reader donations and memberships, and tapped into new revenue streams. Speakers from publishers such as Germany’s BILD, Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) and Malaysiakini will share how they have grown digital subscription income, which is far less volatile than income from third-party platforms and programmatic buying. They will talk about how they have determined readers’ propensity to pay and persuaded audiences to pay for quality content.

According to WAN-IFRA’s 2018 World Press Trends report, traditional revenue sources continue to come under pressure globally, registering a four and eight percent fall for print circulation, and advertising respectively*. Despite this, print media continues to drive publishers’ bottom line globally, while digital circulation revenue has increased by 155% in the last five years as more users pay for online content*. And there is a lot more potential for growth.

Personalising user experience to drive engagement and subscription

Early pioneers in digital subscriptions have moved into personalising the delivery of news products to drive reader engagement, and ultimately, subscriptions. At NZZ, machine-learning  algorithms help personalise the user experience and its paywall, enabling the company to quintuple customer conversion in the last three years. Over at Fairfax Australia, deep customer insights and engagement metrics shaped this year’s redesign of its sites such as the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Melbourne in pursuit of its ambitious paid membership goals.

Creating sustainable revenue streams

At Digital Media Asia, speakers from Reuters News Agency and Google will encourage the exploration of new ground in non-traditional partnerships which extend beyond publishers’ usual reader, media or advertising clients, while early movers in the media blockchain space, such as CoinDesk, and Smartchain Media will cut through all the hype, demystify the technology and tokenomics, and explain why there is a future on the blockchain.

Digital Media Asia 2018 Conference sessions

  • Transformation and business models
  • Go local: driving revenue with local communities
  • Native advertising as premium ad revenue
  • Non-traditional partnerships
  • Digital marketing using AI
  • New ways of creating premium content
  • Digital media consumption trends in Asia
  • Digital subscription
  • Engagement and personalisation
  • Instagram stories school
  • Video for social media
  • Data for business intelligence
  • Blockchain for the media industry
  • Product development and innovation

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* Source: WAN-IFRA World Press trends 2018 - Print advertising revenues globally fell by 8.3% in 2017 while digital advertising revenues rose by 5.38%. However note that print is falling from a base of US$51.4b globally, while digital has a much smaller base of only US$11.4b. (WAN-IFRA 2018 World Press Trends slides 24, 43 and 48, hereinafter known as “WPT”)

ABOUT DIGITAL MEDIA ASIA Now in its 10th year, Digital Media Asia will see nearly 40 speakers from 20 countries addressing senior management and media industry executives on key issues such as digital transformation, diversification of revenue streams, media trends, digital subscription, reader engagement and media innovation. The conference, which will be attended by over 400 participants from 40 countries, is fully sold out. Digital Media Asia 2018 is a conference powered by The WAN-IFRA Asia Pacific office. Our office based in Singapore, helps to bring services such as training, events, consulting, and publications closer to members in the region.

ABOUT WAN-IFRA WAN-IFRA is the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers. Its mission is to protect the rights of journalists and publishers across the world to operate free media and provide its members with professional services to help their business prosper in a digital world and perform their crucial role in open societies. With formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe, it derives its authority from its global network of leading news publishing companies and technology entrepreneurs, and its legitimacy from its 80 national association members representing 18,000 publications in 120 countries.

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