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Are we ready to pay for online content?

The debate continues. More publishers are experimenting with paid content models. Has the time to go pay arrived?

Vivek Khanna
Business Head, Mint

Readers are always willing to pay for interesting, insightful and exclusive content that they want, but are unable to get it free.

Vivek Khanna
Sukirti Gupta
Varghese Chandy

The real challenge for publishers is not about changing the reader mindset but more about creating truly differentiated content and delivering it seamlessly across all platforms.

At Mint, we are strongly committed to providing our readers with a clear and comprehensive analysis of key local and global issues that matter. Having established our print offering, we are now putting a lot of emphasis on expanding our digital portfolio.

In addition to our website Livemint.com, we have launched apps for iPhone and iPad, and we are always looking for more relevant initiatives. Since our readers value the uniqueness of our content, we have started experimenting with paid content models - and our e-paper has already gone paid.

Overall, I believe publishers must continue to focus on content differentiation, invest in latest technology and provide readers with content that they value.

Sukirti Gupta
CEO, MMI Online (JPL)

We believe that it is still too early for Indians to pay for online content on the web.

The concept of micro payment - subscription money - is not there on the online medium.

We don't have enough readers to pay for language content and the present subscription system does not yield returns.

Things can only change if we implement subscription on e-papers as an industry and not at an individual level. So, even if the top 10 publishers come together it will serve the purpose to a large extent. That's the only way the problem can be tackled effectively. However, in mobile phones, the ecosystem is robust and the model for paid content is viable.

Most of the larger Indian publishers are ready with their digital strategy, whether it is for paid content or advertising-supported sites for mobile phones.

Varghese Chandy
Senior General Manager, Malayala Manorama

When websites gave away content for free - in the initial days of the dotcom age - the plan was to support the business with advertising revenue.

However, once the ad budgets dried up, digital publishers who tried charging for content found few takers. Users would just go to another free website. Since everything was given away for free in the beginning, the perception among users was that publishers themselves don't value their content and was not worth paying for. The feeling continues to linger. The truth is that creating and publishing original content is expensive, be it online or on traditional media.

This cost can't be offset by advertising alone. Many publishers have been experimenting with paywalls and combo subscription packages, with varying degrees of success. More experimentation may be required, and what works for a mainstream publication may not work for a niche one. The key is to find the right balance between advertising and subscription revenue, as has been the case with most print publications and even cable TV.

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