We’re at a turning point. The collapse of the American newspaper industry and the broader economic recession have, ironically, created the conditions online content needed to make money.
Publishers are actively working with advertisers to experiment with models that respect the integrity of the content. The consumers, in turn, have become more understanding, and more willing to sacrifice elements of their privacy in exchange for useful services (see Facebook, Twitter, Google Voice, geo-location tools).
Further evidence of the former will be seen on msnbc.com in the coming months as we evolve our story pages design to better respond to both the content of the articles and the advertising inventory available. More immediately, you can see well-designed placement for brand campaigns in the OPA proposals, as well as Federated Media’s “Ad Stamp” format which offers half of a page to one advertiser.
Mass media has succeeded financially because it offers, for a high premium, companies a means to reach a broad audience with a carefully curated message (see the TV commercial, full-page magazine ads). Having adapted classifieds to suit its format (search ads, like AdSense), the Web is now ready to do the same for brand advertising. And with those quality ads, designers have the ability to dramatically improve the entire experience users have while viewing online content.
The other side of the revenue equation is encouraging those same people to actually pay for what they consume. Various micropayment schemes and subscription plans have bloomed and withered during the past decade-and-a-half largely because they failed to accomplish what credit cards and cold cash could: ubiquity.
Now Google is trying to do just that. As is Amazon (so the rumours say). And so is a media-originated attempt. Of the three, Google has the best shot because it’s international and has already solved the micropayment problem with its AdSense platform. Like the book-scanning project, Google could see a revolt by the very industry its trying to solve a problem for.
Whether it be micropayments, one-time purchase, subscriptions, or a combination; the public at large will undoubtably be paying for higher quality content online on a regular basis in the coming years.