Magazine article Information Today

Digital Content Sales: The Time Has Arrived

Magazine article Information Today

Digital Content Sales: The Time Has Arrived

Article excerpt

Over the last year or two, collecting fees for digital content has gone from a fashionable idea to the new reality of online business.

With consumers increasingly interested in buying digital wares online--and Web advertising revenues plummeting--virtually any business that creates digital content has begun to sell its products online or make plans to do so.

Not every publisher may realize this, but the digital content sales market has changed dramatically since the "old days" of the Web. Digital content sales aren't a luxury any more, but an important and growing part of publishing revenues generally.

Until recently, industry pundits insisted that online content fees were doomed, crippled by consumers expecting free goodies from the Web. But if that was ever true, it clearly isn't how the online world works today.

In recent times, the digital content marketplace has been exploding. According to the Online Publishers Association, the number of U.S. consumers willing to pay for online content increased by 5.3 million between Q1 of 2001 and Q1 of 2002, hitting a record 12.4 million people--or about 9.2% of the U.S. Internet population. All told, U.S. consumers spent $675 million for online content in 2001, a 92% increase over the year 2000. Both common sense and hard evidence suggests that this growth spurt in digital content spending is just beginning.

Perhaps even more important are signs that consumers are boosting their digital content spending. Average spending per consumer shot up 46% from Q1 of 2001 to Q1 of 2002 alone, OPA research concluded. With spending levels growing at this rate, it makes increasing sense for publishers to cash in on the content they produce.

How Can Publishers Sell?

If a publisher is ready to sell online content, they'll find opportunities everywhere. The variety of content that can be sold digitally is enormous. Publishers can charge a fee to search and access their archives, develop and sell third-party newsletters, package special themed content--such as electronic newsstands stocked with updated content on current, hot topics, sell access to lists pertinent to the audience, or create other bundles they believe their users would like.

Publishers have virtually unlimited choices for creating premium content products, everything from recurring subscriptions to pay-per-view, single item sales, access to content bundles, day and week passes and more, so that they can create the optimal mix for their audience.

The bottom line is that there's no single, magic approach to making digital content pay, but a good combination of a well articulated blend of both subscriptions and pay-per-view products can often transform a database from a set of records taking up disk space into real revenue. …

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