Can a “Spotify for news” help publishers flourish?
Contributor, March 13, 2023
- Before committing content to a news aggregation service, publishers need to evaluate the pros and cons
- Keep updated on who owns first-party data
- Analyze how these platforms affect subscription models
They say you can tell a great deal about a person by where they get their news. If this old adage holds some truth, it makes the recent launch of Informed, the news aggregation app, even more intriguing.
For the uninitiated, Informed’s pitch to consumers is that, for a subscription fee, the news-hungry reader can access a raft of paywalled publications, including the Financial Times, The New York Times, The Economist, and The Wall Street Journal. To sweeten the deal, it also gathers content from free-to-use publishers like the BBC and The Guardian, creating a one-stop, in-app newsstand for the user.
What’s more, all of this high-quality content is curated by Informed’s editors and experts before being presented in the feeds of users, providing them the opportunity to cut through the noise. It offers a strong proposition for the time-poor but curiosity-rich consumer on their daily commute.
Spotifying the news
With the stability of Twitter still fluctuating almost daily as I write this, and many readers suffering from subscription fatigue, the proposition of well-curated, and cheaply accessed articles is a tempting one. This one-stop-shop could create, in some ways, a Spotify for news outlets.
In the same way that Spotify has completely transformed the way we discover new music in line with the vagaries of our specific tastes, perhaps Informed could offer consumers an easy way to start sampling a wider range of news outlets, while simultaneously offering publishers a more diverse audience.
However, it should be said that Informed’s audience is probably already fairly familiar with the wider news landscape. Furthermore, algorithmically-based suggestions can also reinforce entrenched tastes, by offering more of what the user is likely to enjoy based on past instances, rather than offering anything genuinely new. But this is another issue altogether.
While this is far from the first time that a news aggregation service has emerged — most smartphones come with them inbuilt — the potential for publishers to be directly paid is certainly appealing. Not to mention the potential for publishers to boost their readerships via the app — most publications that I see are brilliant at producing content, yet struggle with promoting it outside of the usual channels.
I’ve yet to see the finer details of Informed. But looking more widely at these aggregation services, publishers should still exercise some caution before jumping to sign up. Here are a few points worth considering when approaching content aggregation apps:
It all comes down to data
First-party data is a publisher’s most valuable asset, especially as we draw ever closer to the phase-out of the cookie. Holding a wealth of rich first-party data on your audience will be vital to attracting ad spend in the coming years.
However, if a reader comes through an aggregator app, their first-party data will likely be owned by the app and not the individual publisher. Essentially, the app would probably act as a data-collecting middleman in the supply path.
It could also leave publishers on complex ground with regards to privacy. As rules around governing user data online become ever tighter and more complex, no publisher wants to find themselves caught in a grey area.
Show me the money
Ultimately, the question of whether or not to sign up for these kinds of services boils down to one question: does the money add up?
Yes, news aggregators can be used for a long-term plan to boost readership, but in economically testing times, such long-term strategies can be tough to execute and hard to sell internally. Are publishers going to see enough income or traffic from these curated news feeds to justify the permanent subscribers they may miss out on — even lose — as a result?
When considering any service like Informed, publishers need to weigh up the pros and cons in the context of an ever-changing and complicated media and data landscape. The potential short-term boost in exposure could provide a platform for long-term growth, but publishers need to ensure they are in a position to maximize this potential.
Having a strategic, diverse, and informed (pun intended) approach to monetization is an essential step in ensuring that publishers are in the strongest position to succeed, whether they are aggregated or not.
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