Report on Shemaroo

PubNation: Are paywalls the future of digital news?

Industry leaders discuss how media businesses can use subscription model.

MUMBAI: Covid2019 has impacted industries across the board but it also gave a massive fillip to digital adoption. People are using digital more than ever for most of their requirements – from buying groceries, to reading news, and seeking entertainment.

The massive change in consumption habits has not gone unnoticed by media organisations and while some may think that the print industry is on the cusp of a digital revolution, the truth is that they have been preparing for this for a while now; upgrading their capabilities by investing in technology, video, content formats, creating properties and, most of all, training editorial teams. 

In order to understand the new form of print media, its relevance as an advertising medium, the content that will define print publications in future, and technology that will shape the copies of tomorrow, is hosting a two-day-long summit – PubNation (print and digital) in partnership with Quintyoe Technologies and Gamezop.

One of the virtual panels focused on the convergence of print and digital, and how news will evolve and be consumed in the next three years. The panel was moderated by Omdia content strategies senior principal analyst Tim Westcott and included ET Online editor Deepak Ajwani, Moneycontrol editor Binoy Prabhakar, HT digital streams chief content officer Prasad Sanyal, Amar Ujala Ltd state editor Uttrakhand Sanjay Abhigyan, and Mathrubhumi assistant editor-online K A Johny.

Abhigyan opened the session by sharing that till recently, Amar Ujala was known as a print maven, but the organisation has adopted digital at a rapid speed. It has a vibrant online presence in the form of a website, YouTube and Facebook pages. In current times, content diversification is of utmost importance, he stated. 

But going digital also raises the question of modes of monetisation. Will the future of the digital news content be obscured behind paywalls?  

The Hindu strategy & digital editor Sriram Srinivasan shared that the group was one of the first ones in the country to figure out that getting into a subscription model was inevitable. “We identified it a few years ago, before we even did it. We all saw where the online advertising was going and a lot of publishers were struggling to make it as a main source of revenue and it is still a problem. There is a limit to which the online advertising can support a publication,” he said.

Prabhakar mentioned that Moneycontrol has a subscription product – Moneycontrol Pro, which has been around for the last two years and has managed over three lakh subscribers in the last 18 months. “We have been doing this because our business ambitions and editorial objectives were clearly aligned.” 

Ajwani, who was representing one of the biggest publishers of the country, mentioned that for the last two years, ET Prime was running without any ads. However, they were the first website in the realm of business mulling to go the subscription route. Initially, the print team was helping them with great paywall content. Then they started with video content, deep-dive stories and experimenting with formats and graphics. Covid2019 further hastened the process of segueing from partial to complete paywall.

 “Initially we put out three articles with in-depth analysis and graphics behind the paywall on This July we integrated it into the ET platform and it became the membership platform for us. We redesigned an integrated website, launched a paywall mechanism, and a lot of changes were made and all this was done from home,” he detailed. 

During the conversation, K A Johny disclosed that Mathrubhumi is planning to go behind a paywall and the teams are working towards this end. 

Westcott wondered how these industry giants were going to make readers pay for their digital platform, to which Prabhakar admitted that building a subscription-based model is not easy. There are also hefty production costs to contend with. To make the content look worthy enough so that the readers pay for it, the organisation uploads weekly stock results and in-depth investigative reports.

Adding to this, Ajwani said that it is important to make the user-experience more hassle-free and enjoyable. "I think both science and content are the subscription mantra." Sanyal agreed, chiming in with the reveal that the organisation is aware of what audiences read, and discovery of the kind of content that will be run on the site is driven by algorithms and not individuals. 

It will be interesting to see how the content strategies of these platforms unfold in the long run and how willing users will be to pay for the content.

Latest Reads
Zee Telugu celebrates Mother's Day with Mathrudevobhava event

KERALA: Zee Telugu is all set to entertain viewers with its Mother's Day special event —Matrudevobhava. The program will go live on Sunday, 9 May at 5 PM.  Packed with extreme entertainment, Matrudevobhava consists of mindblowing performances that viewers can enjoy from their homes this Sunday. The...

Television TV Channels Regional
Fox Corp profits shoot up in Q3, despite ad revenue dip

New Delhi: Fox Corporation on Thursday reported increase in quarterly net income which rose to $582 million as compared to the $90 million reported in the prior year quarter. A change in how the TV broadcasting company valued some of its assets is being considered a key reason for the increase in...

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting
Amitabh Bachchan returns to host Kaun Banega Crorepati 13

NEW DELHI: At a time when the nation is reeling under the pall of the Covid2019 pandemic, TV audiences have been offered a ray of hope with the announcement of a new season of Kaun Banega Crorepati. The game show is one of the most popular programmes ever broadcasted on Indian television. One...

Television TV Channels GECs
&flix turns up the heat with summer blockbusters

MUMBAI: As India battles the second wave of a Covid2019, and people are at odds and ends while sheltering in place, &flix hopes to entertain viewers with its summer line-up of movies. With 'Flix Summer Time', the channel has lined up a slew of blockbuster movies every day starting 11.30 AM in...

Television TV Channels English Entertainment
&flix celebrates Mother's Day with 'A Bad Mom's Christmas'

MUMBAI: Mother’s Day is all about acknowledging and honouring all that your mom does for you. Due to the influence of popular culture, the day has turned into a celebration of ideal motherhood. But our mother, no matter how loving and brilliant they may be, are human too, and imperfect. So this...

Television TV Channels English Entertainment
TV advertising stares at a stressful quarter amid low market sentiment

Television advertising is expected to bounce back this year, courtesy a power-packed live sports line-up. While the January-March period has been exceptionally good for the industry, there has been a sudden reversal since then – IPL 2021 has been halted midway.

Television TV Channels Viewership
Post-pandemic, 50% commuters anticipate continued remote working

Mumbai: More than half of commuters around the world plan to continue working remotely, at least in part, after the pandemic. This, together with a growing preference for healthier modes of transport, but also a resurgence in commuting by car, means the next year will be pivotal in shaping the...

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting
Zee, Salman Khan to channel ‘Radhe’ revenues into India’s fight against Covid

MUMBAI: As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc in India, Zee Entertainment and Salman Khan Films (SKF) have pledged to support Covid2019 relief efforts across the Nation, including the donation of essential medical equipment ranging from oxygen cylinders, concentrators, and ventilators.  This...

Television TV Channels Movie Channels
Disney and Star India contribute Rs 50 crore for Covid relief efforts

KOLKATA: Amid the ongoing Covid2019 crisis, leading TV network Star India has pledged financial support of Rs 50 crore for relief efforts. The announcement was made through Star India's Twitter handle today. The proceeds will be utilised to aid India’s battle against Covid and towards the...

Television TV Channels News Broadcasting

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories

* indicates required