While subscribers do pay a fee to consume content across other traditional mediums, low costs of content delivery in the digital space have given consumers a chance to experience free content since its inception. Over the years, with increasing avenues of media consumption, consumers are getting spoilt for choice while publishers are finding it difficult to monetise from the same. Things have started changing with the development of paid apps and online paywalls by media owners. Yet, publishers feel they have quite a distance to cover before Indian consumers start paying for digital content.
C Mathew, DGM, marketing - publication management, Malayala Manorama feels that Indian consumers are not ready to pay for digital content yet. He said, “Eventually that needs to happen, as I think it is necessary for the growth of the industry. From the beginning, internet has been seen as a free medium and people have been enjoying its fruits till date. When one player starts charging fees for content, there is a resistance from subscribers. As a result, a collective effort from publishers is required for increasing paid subscriptions, which is very difficult in the internet medium.”
Sharing a similar point, S Balasubramanian, head – marketing (new media), Dinamalar.com, said, “Traditional media publishers have to invest considerable money to deliver content while the content owners in the online space can deliver to a very wide audience with minimal investments. Since consumers have got used to the idea of free content, I don’t think Indian consumers will be ready to pay for digital content anytime soon.”
Lakshmi Narasimhan, chief executive officer, Web18, feels that the Indian mobile user is happy paying for content while his PC web counterpart is not. He said, “A strong argument against pay walls is that it will hamper the fast growth of internet audiences. Also, as long as there are others giving away the same content for free, it will be difficult to get consumers to pay for it. The big challenges faced by publishers today are creating differentiated, value-added content and lack of consumer confidence in online payments. The biggest challenge perhaps is the current size of the Indian online universe itself. With that growing rapidly, payment for content as a significant revenue stream will be a reality.”
Maya Hari, director – digital, Conde Nast India, pointed out that paying for content is something that has increasingly become more acceptable to the digital consumer with the advent of mobile applications. “Content provided in the right format and context can get a consumer willing to pay for it. Localization of content is always a positive thing,” she explained.
Meanwhile, Rishi Khiani, chief executive officer, Times Internet Limited noted that a miniscule percentage of internet users are already paying for quality content, convenience content and fun content. “Harvard Business Review article, Research reports, convenience like audible formats of books (audible.com), iTunes and fun currencies used for Farmville are some of the examples wherein consumer is already paying for content,” he added.
Lakshmi Narasimhan, chief executive officer, Web18
“I believe that Indian consumers are ready to pay for digital content and more so with the increasing penetration of e-readers and tablet PCs where the eco-system is in place. But I think the more successful paid content models may be the ones that offer value-added content, utility-based content and applications, niche or premium content.”
Maya Hari, director – digital, Conde Nast India
“Indian consumers are much like their international counterparts in their general thinking. Paying for content is something that has increasingly become more acceptable to the digital consumer with the advent of mobile applications. Content provided in the right format and context can get a consumer willing to pay for it. While, India predominantly has tended to be a market where consumers preferred to not pay for digital content but among the premium audiences, there has been a trend to adopt paid apps. Presenting premium content through apps is one of the ways to offer paid content to premium consumers.”
C Mathew, DGM, marketing - publication management, Malayala Manorama
“There is a long way to go before we can see a lot of paid subscribers in the space as even major publishers have not yet come together to address the issue collectively. The advent of paid apps will definitely help in creating a strong revenue model for the digital space. Hopefully publishers will not make the same mistakes as they made while launching earlier digital formats. I think video, local, niche and breaking news formats will urge consumers to pay for the content”.
S Balasubramanian, head – marketing (new media), Dinamalar.com
“Being a regional player, localisation of content does help in getting a loyal audience. Having said that, innovation in content delivery and quickness of news delivery hold the key in getting subscribers to pay for content online. Upcoming mediums like mobiles and tablets will play a major role in increasing paid subscriptions as people are used to paying for mobile content like VAS. ”
Rishi Khiani, chief executive officer, Times Internet Limited
“Demographics and psychographics of the consumer who will pay for content needs to be kept in mind. The younger age group is likely to pay for fun content, while older and higher earnings group will pay for convenience and quality . Steve Jobs built iTunes by convincing youth that the time they spend on searching pirated music is not worth the minimum wage dollars that they could have earned. So convenience, value for money and perceived values will decide the quantum of consumers who will pay for digital content”.