LONDON: English-language newsbrands operating internationally face stark choices in terms of which business model they follow, with only a handful likely to find success with paid subscriptions, according to a senior News Corp executive.

“There will be a few people – maybe no more than ten – who will be able to charge a large amount of customers for a direct subscription,” Chris Duncan, managing director of Times Newspapers Ltd, told The Drum.

“Then there will be a number of [free] sites that will be at a global scale and generating an audience and running on that model.”

He was pessimistic about the outlook for those operating somewhere in between these two – only able to charge a limited number of people or unable to reach the necessary scale.

All premium publishers, he added, face the same problems: “how do you build a revenue base of customers at the same time as finding the next set of customers who are used to free content?”

In that context, he welcomed Google’s recent decision to scrap its ‘first click free’ policy, which required publishers to provide a minimum number of free articles a day via Google Search and Google News before people were asked to pay for content.

“It was asking you to change your business model for Google customers and we always thought that was unfair and was leveraging the dominance of the search engine,” said Duncan.

The new “flexible sampling” model allows publishers themselves to decide how many – if any – free articles they want to provide to potential subscribers based on their own business strategies.

With entire articles now being indexed by search engine crawlers, “it’s having a big impact on our referral numbers”, Duncan reported.

The Times and The Sunday Times are now attracting registrations from 18-24-year-olds “in bigger numbers than we have been for quite a while”, he said.

The titles have also been running a “two free articles a week “ scheme for over a year that has brought in 2m new users, who form the target group for conversion to subscription via discounted trials that give access to the whole Times/Sunday Times package.

Sourced from The Drum; additional content by WARC staff