Are custom publishers feeling the “pay wall” pain?

pay-wall-2Not so much. From our vantage as a content provider that doesn’t rely on paid circulation or advertising, Wax Custom Communications gets to consider the raging debate over paid content models from a slight remove. I say “slight” because we’re certainly exposed to the upheavals in print media, and we’ve taken our knocks along with everyone else this year. But custom publishing, in print or online, is a “sponsored content” model that’s rarely heard of in the daily din about everyone from Rupert Murdoch to Condé Nast to the New York Times Co., to Time Inc. and that whole great pantheon of print royals.

Again, genuine custom publishing is, in essence, “sponsored” content. It’s like advertorial content. Then again, it’s not. The service provided by custom publishers is, in the main, one of corporate branding, loyalty/retention and targeting/segmentation, maximizing and guaranteeing reader interest. It is in no way general. Done well, it transcends both “niche” and special interest publishing. It connects the sponsor to the reader as no other form of communication has yet been able to, because it’s created only for a laser-targeted audience – members of a medical plan, for example, or top-producing agents for major insurance companies.

Custom publishing was “hyperlocal” a decade before most in the greater mediaverse knew it even mattered. Speaking anecdotally, my sense is that custom publishers have ridden out the meltdown comparatively better than our friends on the varied newspaper and magazine sides – or at least those of us who went into the meltdown solvent. Even within topical information sources like www.paidcontent.org, it’s hard to find mention of a sponsored magazine failure amid the talk of pay walls, editorial layoffs and the closures of hugely popular special interest and niche publications. While they were “custom” in a way, they nevertheless withered, as free content’s appeal ripped these titles apart. “Special interest” does not equal “custom publishing.”

Count on content deliberations to blaze with no end in sight. The respected media pundit domain, www.minonline.com, just published another in its now semi-permanent series on consumer (un)willingness to pay – in this case for online content – quoting “a new report from Forrester [which found that] 80% of 4,711 people surveyed said they wouldn’t access their current sites if suddenly they were required to pay.” Min goes on to say, however, that “User responses to surveys about their willingness to pay for content are notoriously uneven …”, making reference to a recent Boston Consulting Group survey that reported nearly half of U.S. users claimed to be being willing buy online content.

It just makes me glad I’m in custom.

– Owen McDonald

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