Not all paywalls are created equal: RR Donnelly’s Press+ announced yesterday that it would extend a grandfather clause to Google One Pass subscribers after Google closed its paid content platform on Friday, according to a press release.
Press+, a metered paywall platform which launched in 2009, currently has over 300 publications on its service, including newspapers from McClatchy and Tribune Co., as we previously reported. With the Press+ model, publishers allow users on average access to 5-15 articles per month, after which users must subscribe in order to view content.
“We will maintain subscriber accounts for whichever publishers might have signed on with Google without charging our usual revenue share,” said Press+ cofounder Steven Brill in the press release. “We’ll only charge for all the new customers we generate going forward once our seamless transition is completed.”
Google One Pass launched in February 2011 as a payment system in which publishers charged users for content, allowing them to keep 90% of revenue earned, as previously reported. According to paidContent, however, few US newspapers ever used One Pass.
Perhaps because of its different approach to publisher relations, Press+ saw much more success. At the time of One Pass’ launch, Press+ had only 24 clients, according to the press release. Now serving 349 publishers, Press+ reports that an additional 200 publishers plan to launch paywall systems through its system, the release said.
“Unlike Google One Pass or Apple’s iTunes, Press+ is an independent provider that enables publishers to generate subscription revenues across all digital versions, including through Google’s Android and Apple’s iPad and iPhone,” the press release said. “Publishers using Press+ have the exclusive relationship with their own subscribers, and Press+ does not compete with publishers to sell online advertising.”
Press+ cofounder Gordon Crovitz suggested that the Press+ approach to subscriber data also contributed to its popularity with publishers.
“We never use the data for our own purposes or share it with others such as advertisers,” he said in the press release. “All customer data relating to publishers belongs only to the publishers.”
The closure of One Pass has resulted in Google’s pursuit of other paid content models like Google Consumer Surveys, a “paywall substitute,” paidContent reported.
As we previously reported, Google has recently begun offering consumer surveys, each of which consists of a single marketing research question that users must answer before being allowed access to certain articles on a news website. For these microsurveys, Google charges businesses $.10 for every answer acquired (or $.50 for targeted questions), with publishers receiving $.05 of profits.
“We are working with existing partners to make the transition from One Pass to other platforms, including Google Consumer Surveys,” said the Google official blog. “While One Pass is going away, we will continue working with publishers to build new tools.”
Clearly, much of microsurveys’ appeal is that they do not create hard barriers between readers and content, while at the same time earning extra revenue for publishers that would be lost without a paywall. As we reported, though, revenue from Google surveys has so far been relatively small, according to publications like AdWeek who are experimenting with the system.
With the closure of a direct competitor to Press+, will the metered paywall model continue to dominate online? It seems as though many newspapers remain attached to the notion of subscriptions as the most lucrative way to charge for content, and Press+’s client list is apparently climbing. It will be interesting to see, though, if Google can come back from the failure of its subscription model and establish Consumer Surveys as not only an effective market competitor for Press+, but another option for publishers in the never-ending quest for content monetization in the news industry.
Sources: Press+, paidContent, Google