More Readers, More Money?

Amazon’s E-Books and Kindle Fire are changing the publishing business with legacy publishers and literary agents being pushed to the sidelines according to an article in the New York Times by David Streitfield. He quotes Amazon executive Russell Grandinetti, “The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader. Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity.”

For writers, the Internet offers a simple proposition: the more readers you attract, the more you get paid.

Forbes has been doing this for awhile under the aegis of “Entrepreneurial Journalism.” This presents some problems for writers Andrew Boer notes in his MediaPost column on performance-based pay. He says, “The biggest problem is that performance–based pay shifts nearly all of the risks on to the writer … how can the writer control whether publishers promote their content on the home page, have decent page rank or promote content in newsletters?”

A second concern Boer lists is the system’s built-in downgrading incentive for authors to write many quick and easy pieces, hoping one of them strikes a bonanza of reader hits. And third, pay for performance has a stigma of commercialism authors used to distain. But, Boer advises they may need to change their minds “because authors are rapidly becoming the primary driver of content distribution.” In another article for Online Publishing Insider, Boer sees the writer being “transformed from a freelancer to a minor brand. The author becomes the true publisher in search of a content aggregator with a willingness to pay for his or her audience.”

It seems like yesterday that pundits were sure Americans would never pay for online news and commentary. Now they are starting to ante up, according to Steve Smith, in a piece titled “Pay?” appearing in Data and Behavioral Insider, a Mediapost offering, he cites Press+’s experience with metered tariffs that makes the company think peoples’ expectations of free content may be shifting.

Press+ works with hundreds of publishers to promote metered payment models and now has 285 sites using the system whereby consumers pay to read more after linking to a number of articles for free over a given period of time. According to Smith, “Press+ says that readers often will opt to subscribe before the system actually cuts them off from more access and forces them to buy-in or abandon. Some papers are seeing more people elect to subscribe off of Subscribe Now house ads on the site than wait until they hit the article limit.” Smith adds, however, “Of course, it’s still unclear whether the metered approach is realizing the kinds of revenues news publishers need to sustain journalism as we have known it.”

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. John Matras

    Boer doesn’t know the half of it. It’s very easy for a publisher to manipulate a writer’s traffic–particularly hijacking the traffic a particular writer had brought in, as well as change the payout rate and various other rules of the game.

    The pay per page view system absolutely affects article length, making in-depth articles with lots of original research unprofitable. Dirivative work and the quick 400 word article are the holy grail of that kind of outlet.

  2. Wallace Wyss

    I wonder how this relates to e-book printing? I was going to go e-book on my first novel but then discovered my print publisher only wanted to pay me 10% royalties as they do on the print versions of my previous book. Isn’t the whole idea of authors wanting to go e-book the gianing of a higher percentage of royalties since the publisher has no expense in typesetting? I am thinking more like 30% royalties. If anyone out there in autowriterland has had a favorable experience with an e-book publisher (I realize it’s an emerging world in that area) let me know their name and I’ll see if they have a higher return for the author.

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