Avusa’s flagship brand, the Sunday Times has done away with its free online content model, and has replaced it with paid-for digital alternatives.
To gain access to the digital copy of the Sunday Times users will have to pay R58 per month.
The new system kicked in on Sunday 17 June, essentially doing away with the traditional website and giving users an electronic alternative to the print newspaper.
Elan Lohmann, Managing Director at Digital Avusa Group, explains that the decision has been made to generate more digital revenue and to protect print revenue.
“Internal analysis suggests that the commercial outlook in the medium and longer term is more positive for the business adopting this route,” said Lohmann.
“It is critical to note that this strategy applies only to the Sunday Times newspaper content and other content on the Times LIVE network remains free to air.”
Lohmann explained that the Sunday Times content on the site accounted for a very small percentage of traffic, which means that they do not believe this move poses any threat to their existing online advertising sales model.
“Advertisers have never requested to buy ‘Sunday Times’ traffic for obvious reasons, so that inventory has had no commercial value for our business other than eroding sales in print as a substitution,” said Lohmann.
“But people often chose digital according to convenience and their habits/preferences so our objective is to supply the Sunday Times content on as many platforms as possible. But the common denominator is that it will always be paid for. So use it how you choose, but pay is the central concept.”
“We will shortly add a full version of the Sunday Times in addition to the editor’s choice using local start-up, Snapplify which will offer full solutions for iOS and Android. There are a few other channels in the pipeline too to make the solution more holistic for a consumer,” said Lohmann.
While there may be some criticism from some Internet users who have grown accustomed to reading the Sunday Times for free online, Lohmann said that consumers who have a real relationship with the Sunday Times content will support them, since the pricing is reasonable.
“It is a true test of how valuable your content really is in the life of a consumer. The result of that is not easily predictable,” said Lohmann.
Lohmann said that while they may miss the mark initially in terms of the variety of products they are offering, they will adapt quickly to what the market wants.
“We are however confident this is the sensible commercial decision for our strategic plans going forward. It is not a knee-jerk short term approach from our perspective,” said Lohmann.