Founder of MediaNama says "It's time for us to resume focus on derisking revenue streams."
Apart from unplanned shutdowns, layoffs and pay cuts, what has also happened since March 2020 is that various news publications have started looking beyond ad revenues.
According to leading management consulting firm KPMG, the unique visitors of news publications “doubled” during the Coronavirus pandemic. This was primarily due to supply chain disruption. The delivery boys were not allowed in housing societies, which resulted in a decline in circulation. At one stage, it was nil for the top global publications.
Last year, most newspapers decided to put their e-papers behind a paywall. Large ones like The Indian Express, The Times of India and The Hindu introduced digital subscriptions.
Today, most newspapers have exclusive content behind a paywall. In some cases, the content is made available for free after a period of time. Some publications keep some content free for the readers, who sample the digital avatars and then become paid subscribers.
It is not only the traditional newspapers which have introducing a paywall for their digital versions. The web publishers have also started looking beyond ad revenues. MediaNama, an online media entity which specialises in reporting on India-focused tech policy developments, recently released a pro-subscription offering.
“Over the past few years, we've seen a decline in advertising as a revenue stream, increasing our dependence on events."Nikhil Pahwa
“We had been planning to roll out subscriptions for a year, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to focus management bandwidth on sustainability of the business,” says Nikhil Pahwa, founder of MediaNama.
“Over the past few years, we've seen a decline in advertising as a revenue stream, increasing our dependence on events. With COVID-19, we also saw an impact on event revenues which, in turn has affected our growth plans. Through the pandemic, we were careful to ensure that its impact was not felt by our editorial team.”
MediaNama has not sacked reporters during the pandemic, asserts Pahwa. “It's time for us to resume focus on derisking revenue streams by diversifying both our client base and revenue sources. We also feel that there is a significant need for us to expand our editorial team. Subscription/membership revenue will help us to hire more journalists, and ensure that we are able to continue covering the depth and breadth of technology policy for our readers.”
"I've always felt that a hard paywall reduces the availability of important news and perspective in the public domain."Nikhil Pahwa
Pahwa believes that the early subscribers will be those who read MediaNama on a daily basis, and also those who want to support the kind of journalism MediaNama is known for. "We're also seeing active interest in group/enterprise subscriptions, which we think will drive our subscription growth, going forward.”
MediaNama will keep some of its content free. “We've been careful to ensure that we don't lose sight of our public service goal. I've always felt that a hard paywall reduces the availability of important news and perspective in the public domain. We've ensured that most MediaNama stories are available publicly for the first three days, before they go behind a paywall,” Pahwa concludes.