Asking readers to pay for content may put it out of reach for many consumers, but the readers who do commit to buying a subscription make up an engaged audience that advertisers seek to reach.
>Half of publishers said their main source of income will be from readers, according to a survey by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. About one-third of publishers said advertising and reader revenue will be equally important, while only 14% will depend solely on advertising.
The growing dependence on reader revenue has serious implications for news publishers, especially local newspapers struggling to survive. Lower-income readers may balk at having to pay for news, leaving them to the vagaries of misinformation that spreads unchecked through the internet and social media.
Even broadcast news, which has been the main way for many to stay informed, may not be able to blunt the effect of fake news that's found online. That's especially true for younger audiences who don't watch TV, having the cut the cord to subscribe to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.
For publishers, the optimal revenue mix consists of subscriptions and revenue from advertisers seeking to reach those engaged consumers. Publishers can tout their ability to deliver audiences in a brand-safe environment, away from the user-generated sewage that flows through the news feeds of social-media platforms.
It's encouraging that 73% of publishers feel confident or very confident about their company’s prospects this year, even if 46% felt confident in their outlook for journalism.
Much of the trepidation comes as publishers worry the internet is becoming more regulated and threatening press freedoms. Also, politicians are bolder about attacking the credibility of the press. Amid those concerns, publishers need to burnish their reputations with content that's especially meaningful to the audiences they deliver to sponsors.