In the same way that Spotify took a great big slice of marketshare from iTunes, the potential inkl.com, a new Melbourne based startup has to actually breathe life into the ‘touch and go’ realm of publisher paywalls is obvious.
The way inkl works is it collects and aggregates content from various publishers, majority of whom have a ‘paywall’ revenue stream around their content, and offer all the content to users in a single monthly subscription payment. Meaning that for those amongst us that digest a lot of news, and long form journalistic content on a daily basis, signing up for the service and by default negating the need to have multiple subscriptions with a number of paywall driven media assets, makes perfect sense.
Founded by Gautam Mishra, former Director of Strategy at Fairfax, inkl.com aims to, over the next 12 months to build up a library of global publishers, allowing readers to have access to a wide and diverse selection of content. Users have the option of choosing an unlimited content subscription (around $15.00/m) or they can take advantage of a pay-as-you-go option (around $0.10/article).
“Readers can now access content from all these global sources via one subscription. So they have access to journalism they might otherwise be locked out of due to the different digital subscription models of various publishers.” says Mishra.
Mishra enlisted co-founder of North Base Media and former Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal, Marcus Brauchli to help with creative and strategic input of the product and as a result is now an early investor in the business. This isn’t the first investment North Base has made into the ‘paywall’ verticle. Recently the company helped Piano Media to finance its acquisition of Press+ meaning that they now also have a stake in the worlds largest paywall service provider.
Focusing specifically on the ‘news’ for the moment, Mishra hopes that his new venture will be able to create a new revenue stream for news publishers, and in turn place a higher value on high quality journalism. “A really important part of inkl’s purpose is to help ensure that high quality journalism continues to be financially sustainable,” he said. “As the trend towards mobile news consumption continues, publishers need innovative business partners who can help them find new ways to grow revenue. inkl generates 50- or even 100-times as much revenue per page as most publishers earn from mobile ads, and still delivers a very cost-effective solution for readers.”
On that point, Mishra is definitely correct, when you look at the mobile CPM rates currently, they do not represent anywhere near the amount of revenue that a publication would usually be able to make from a campaign executed via a desktop solution. And even though statistically the conversion rate from reader to paid subscriber of a publication currently sits a little below 2%, and it would appear at first glance that the publication could be making more subscriber revenue being apart of inkl.com – for me, there is a question mark around how users moving from one platform to consume their news to another could affect other metrics at a publication.
It’s a well documented fact that the value in a media play does not rest squarely on revenue. Other factors like page views, return rate of readers and unique monthly browsers also play a critical role. When you move a section of readership away from the host platform, you risk the value proposition of the media product dropping. Having said that, inkl.com is still very much in its early days and there may in fact be future features that actually help rather than hinder these metrics to be released at a later date.
Where I see the real challenge happening is in convincing publishers (that do not have and don’t intend to have a paywall on their products) that inkl.com will be a smart move for them. If I was to use Startup Daily as an example, I would be less inclined to have the same content published on this site, then republished on another platform, as it detracts from other commercially driven activities that we have happening on the site. Having said that, perhaps creating custom daily, short form content, specifically for a platform like inkl.com would be something that I would be open to exploring as it would be a great introduction for users that have not yet discovered our main website to perhaps give reading our daily longer form content a try.
This new venture by Mishra is most certainly addressing a gap in the market – I am definitely going to be a user of the service once available in the region. I think that as all the large media organisations are checked off the list though and added to the platform, the logical next iteration of content providers to be added will be the more niche focused sites, and unlike the Fairfax’s and Newscorp’s of the world, they will have a lot more questions around the knock on affects the aggregation / syndication play could have on their core business.
UPDATE: At the time of writing and researching this article, there was a bug in the sign up process saying that the application was not yet available in the Australian region. This bug has since been fixed and inkl.com is available to the general public.