Commentary

WaPo's Arc Publishing Adds Subscription Tools

The Washington Post’s digital publishing platform, Arc Publishing, added subscription tools aimed at helping publishers generate consumer revenue. Arc Subscriptions lets publishers manage paywalls, capture reader information, handle billing, provide customer service and build offer pages, the company stated.

New Zealand Media and Entertainment, a multimedia company that publishes The New Zealand Herald, is the first company to use Arc Subscriptions. It created a premium subscription service that exceeded estimates less than two weeks after its rollout, according to The Washington Post.

Arc publishing plans to add machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence that equips computers with the ability to function without explicit instructions, to the subscription services platform. The technology can help identify readers most likely to subscribe.

Access to advanced technology is a major benefit of being owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon. who bought The Washington Post in 2013. Amazon’s cloud computing platform, Amazon Web Services, invests heavily in research and development to power companies like Disney, Hearst, News Corp, Netflix and Yelp.

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Digital subscriptions have become a higher priority for newspapers, magazines and digital publishers faced with flat or declining revenue. However, many publishers still allow free access to their websites, a Reuters Institute study found.

More than half of the news organizations — 53% of the 212 outlets included in the survey — offer free access to digital news. The percentage of newspapers that had some kind of pay model grew to 69% this year from 64.5% in 2017.

Only 52% of weeklies and magazines demand some form of payment from digital readers, while no TV stations have paywalls.

Hard paywalls established by publishers like The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times -- where no content is accessible for free -- are rare, according to the study.

Paywalls are evenly divided (33% each) between freemium models, a mix of free and premium content, and metered paywalls, which allow access to a limited number of free articles each month, such as The New York Times’ strategy.

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