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raised via platforms
To what extent they empower news
companies and their revenue?
January 24, 2019
Critical platform dependency
Author Matthew Hindman:
“Digital newspapers depend
critically on the industrial plants of
Google, Facebook, or Apple in order
to attract an audience”.
Facebook’s and Apple’s subscription
services are “particularly damaging
to the autonomy of news outlets”
because they only work within their
platforms, making monetising
Multiple researchers have
warned about ‘platform power’
(Bell & Owen, 2017; Pickard,
2017; Nielsen & Ganter, 2018).
News companies dangerously
dependent on platform
attention & traffic (Cornia et al.,
2018; Myllylahti, 2018).
ACCC’s digital platform inquiry
ruled that Facebook and Google
have too much ‘market power’.
Money from attention?
•My study Attention
economy trap? of 4 news
companies revenue from
Facebook traffic and
social shares shows that
revenue from both was
under 1% of the news
companies total revenue
•Study did not include
potential revenue from
Still, news companies
continue to invest in social
•Cornia et al. (2018) found that despite
platform risks news companies
“continue to invest in social media
distribution, especially on Facebook.”
•Companies believe that platforms are
“generating a short-term return on
•What about long-term benefits?
platforms launch new
Apple to relaunch
Texture next Spring.
Aim of the paper
To which extent platform
To scope different platform
subscription models and
revenues their may offer.
To explore benefits and
pitfalls of platform
What was researched?
Subscription services offered by platforms
•Platform subscription services of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google
•Statements made by companies including The Baltimore Sun, Bild, FT,
Gazeta Wyborcza, McClatchy, The Economist
Benefits of platform subscriptions
Pitfalls of platform subscriptions
The NYT, Le Figaro, Fairfax Media, McClatchy,
Les Echos, FT, Gatehouse Media, Grupo
Globo, The Telegraph, The Washington Post,
Subscribe with Google
-users can pay
digital subscription while on Google
Bild, The Boston Globe, The Economist, The
Houston Chronicle, The San Francisco
Chronicle, La Repubblica, Le Parisien, Spiegel,
The Telegraph, Tronc, The Washington Post
Facebook subscription/Instant Articles
users can subscribe directly to news
services within Facebook platform
In talks with The NYT, WSJ, The Washington
Apple Texture/Apple News
News Corp, The Washington Post, Chicago
Tribune, The New Yorker
Subscribe with Amazon
sell digital subscriptions directly inside
The Baltimore Sun
Facebook subscriptions increased
No substantial uplift through
Facebook Instant Articles
Facebook drives more people in
Facebook biggest driver of new
subscribers, 40% of all new subscribers
Boosted by paid campaigns
acquisitions become costly
Converting through Facebook is cost
effective and scalable
What do we know about the revenue?
•Facebook says that with its
paywall, news publishers
“own the process, they own
the relationship with their
audience and can build their
audience out from there.
Facebook does not take a
But we have an idea about the cost of
•To exemplify, in 2018 the NYT announced
that its third quarter marketing expenses
increased to $40.4 from $26.6 million in
the same period in 2017.
•Increase in marketing expenses was
largely due a spike in subscription
acquisition and brand marketing costs.
To summarise –potential
pitfalls and benefits?
•In some cases platform subscriptions
drive conversion –contested
•In some cases platform acquisition
lowers costs –contested
•Google subscriptions simplify
•Facebook drives new subscriptions –
•Revenue from platform subscriptions
and services - unknown
Digital news project 2019
•Nic Newman’s survey of 200 editors, CEOs, and
➢Publishers are looking to diversify away from
Facebook and towards other platforms this year.
➢“Google remains the key priority for most, with
more than eight in ten (87%) saying it will be
‘very’ or ‘extremely important’, but publishers
are also looking again at YouTube, Instagram and
Twitter as they look to reach new audiences.”
➢Apple News (43%) is considered as important as
Facebook, with some publishers reporting sharp
increases in traffic.
Newspaper executive about
“I’d be careful if I were a
newspaper because I’d really
want to have a feel for how
much revenue I might be
How and what to research next?
•Two separate issues:
➢News companies own
subscription acquisitions via
social media and from
➢Specific platform services
offered by Google,
Facebook, Apple and
•Concrete empirical evidence
needed about benefits and