Digital Paywalls or Freemiums.

When publishers are considering which model to apply to an online subscription strategy, Jim Gerber, Google’s director of strategic partnerships, has a response. “The answer is that it depends.” It depends on whether a newspaper publishes daily or weekly, on the type of content that’s created, on the readership, and on the competition – the biggest factor, Gerber said at INK+BEYOND’s session, Rethinking Newspapers: Digital Paywalls or Freemiums.

“There is no silver bullet. There is no one answer,” said Gerber, who urged his audience to experiment and iterate until the right model is found. To aid publishers in this endeavour, Google has developed One Pass, a payment model that lets newspapers establish rules for accessing their content. The program assists publishers with three challenges: sustaining traffic, managing access/revenue models, and selling across multiple platforms.

One Pass, said Gerber, means that content can be created once but sold everywhere. It’s a payment and authentication platform for publishers, envisioning new revenue streams, reader engagement and retention, lightweight technology implementation, multi-device platform, and a business-model flexibility that allows for a variety of subscription plans.

Subscriptions can be of different lengths, and the system allows for an auto-renewing option. Publishers control how and when content gets monetized. While publishers manage content pricing, rules and customer support, Google handles authentication and payment, said Gerber, who cautioned his audience that, “rolling your own slows the process down.”