Brill Gets More Delusional: Now Thinks 10 to 15% Of Online Newspaper Readers Will Pay
from the good-luck-with-that dept
Earlier this summer, we noted that it was something of a pipedream by Stephen Brill to believe that 5 to 10% of online newspaper readers would pony up for a subscription to the online site. Having spent time looking at plenty of “free” websites that have tried to charge, the numbers are significantly lower in almost all cases. We’re talking 1% tops — unless there’s a really really good reason to pay, and then you’re talking 2 to 3%. In many cases, the number is even lower than 1%. At the same time, I pointed out that Brill was making the classic mistake that makes any venture capitalist laugh you out of the room: “if we just get x% of this market, we’ll be huge!” But that’s top-down thinking, and markets don’t work that way. You need to be bottom up and explain not why x% will buy, but why the first person will buy, and the second person will buy and so on.
However, as the Nieman Lab points out, not only is Brill still playing the top down game, he’s now increasing the number of “paid” subs he thinks he can get from the “5 to 10%” he was claiming a couple months ago to “10 to 15%” now:
The idea is that a newspaper probably has 10 or 15 percent of its audience who are the most engaged, who come to that Web site all the time. Those are the people who will be asked to pay a small portion.
They’ll be asked, but they won’t pay. Brill even tries to go through some numbers, but again, he does it top down, rather than bottom up:
Let’s say that a newspaper in a given month has 1 million visitors. It might be that 850,000 of those people just came there casually through a Google News search, came there once or twice, but aren’t particularly devoted to, let’s say, The Washington Post.
On the other hand, there might 100,000 or 150,000 of those people who absolutely, positively have to see The Washington Post every day. They want to read your column. They want to read the stuff about lobbying.
They want to read the stuff that really makes The Washington Post The Washington Post.
Those people will be asked to pay something, typically getting a big discount if they already have a print subscription.
They’ll be asked to pay… but will they? Fat chance. Now we run a website that has content that is viewed by over a million visitors per month (between RSS and the site itself). And, many of our readers are quite loyal and have certainly built a connection with the site. But I’ll be the first to admit that the likelihood of 10 to 15% of our visitors agreeing to pay for the content is ludicrous. I’d argue that even thinking that 1% would pay is highly unlikely. There’s too much “competition” for attention, and pissing people off with paywall doesn’t make them more likely to stick around. Brill is way overestimating the willingness of online readers to pay for certain content.