Commentary

Scribd Adds News To Subscription Service

Scribd, one of a handful of services sometimes described as “Netflix for magazines,” is adding selected content from newspapers and other news organizations to its unlimited reading subscriptions, the digital content platform announced on Wednesday.

Beginning this week, as part of their $9-per-month subscription, Scribd members will get access to a variety of content from publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and Financial Times, as well as from other news orgs publishing online, like NPR and ProPublica.

The deal does not enable unlimited access, and Scribd will choose which articles to make available through the content licensing agreement.

The addition of newspapers and other news orgs comes half a year after Scribd struck a more expansive deal with a number of big magazines, including People, Time, Fortune and Bloomberg Businessweek. In the case of the newspapers, Scribd is compensating publishers with various models, typically including payment per article.

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It’s worth noting that a number of big publishers are pulling the plug on content partnerships with Facebook, due to dissatisfaction with its monetization model, including The New York Times and The Guardian, while many publishers are complaining their Facebook audiences have shrunk due to changes in its newsfeed algorithm.

Scribd touted the new service as a potential lifeline for publishers: “This puts dollars back into the journalistic ecosystem and clears the hurdle publishers are struggling with: to get people to pay for news.”

The deal comes as tech platforms woo publishers with promises of greater scale and new revenues sources.

For example, in April, Amazon launched a new service selling online subscriptions, including digital magazines and newspapers, giving publishers access to its vast online retail customer base as a potential audience. The new marketplace, “Subscribe with Amazon,” allows the subscription seller to create a customized detail page with product images, offering digital subscriptions, with the option for tiered pricing schemes where necessary.

Also in April, Flipboard introduced new video advertising products for three of its biggest content categories, with launch participants including ABC News, CNBC, Elle, Hearst Digital Media, and TransWorld SKATEboarding, published by TEN The Enthusiast Network.

It isn’t all smooth sailing for the platforms or their partners.

In January, digital publishing platforms Medium cut its workforce by one-third, spelling the end of Medium’s branded content business, “Promoted Stories,” which was intended to generate ad revenues by helping big advertising clients create engaging multimedia content on the platform. Since then, Medium has struggled to establish a new business model to sustain online publishers.

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