Winning the Paywall Fight

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A controversy has broken out between two media powerhouses in Germany: BILD – the largest daily – accuses rival Focus of stealing. It’s all about digital content and paywalls. Bild.de managers claim that Focus keeps sneaking behind its paywall, only to take supposedly exclusive content and then slightly repackaging it for its own Focus Online website.

True? I’ll leave that fight to the lawyers. But what it shows – again – is that content simply isn’t enough of a value proposition anymore. Because words and pictures are easy to “steal.” In fact, bloggers have done this for years: read something here, there, and everywhere, then put it in your own words on your own website (or just copy and paste, if you don’t mind the accusation of stealing).

Now, imagine if BILD were to offer something that cannot easily be copied. How about real-time chats with celebrities, sports stars, authors, politicians – exclusive to BILD Plus subscribers, and in the form of an actual video conversation? A technology offered by Spreecast, for example. Or imagine special access to rock concerts and backstage meetings with musicians for those BILD Plus subscribers who show – in a social-media powered competition – that they’re the band’s greatest fans. In addition, why not cooperate with brands that want to introduce new products? Only paywall subscribers get a chance to be a part of the unveiling, an event which has, again, celebrities present to become a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experience that all attendees will be raving about for years.

There’s a whole world of fresh opportunities opening up, especially for big media brands that have star power of their own. But only when these media companies start thinking beyond a simple content sale.

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