The Danger of Zero-Sum Publishing – For Me to Win, You Have to Lose

Users already spend their media budget on multiple subscriptions, including streaming services like Netflix, Spotify etc., as well as some news publications. But they don’t want more of the latter.  The industry now runs the risk of embracing a zero-sum game where, for one publisher to win, every other publisher must lose. Rather than rely solely on subscriptions, the revenues of which just go to one outlet, publishers must embrace low-friction models that provide an alternative, ongoing revenue stream without cannibalizing existing monetization streams.

Key Points

  • Zero-sum or distributive situations are ones in which there can be only one winner.
  • Should the trend of users increasingly proving unwilling to pay for multiple subscriptions each month persist, and if the industry relies exclusively on subscriptions for revenue generation, it will find itself in a zero-sum situation. 
  • If a reader is only going to pay for a subscription to their favorite news publication, then precisely zero revenue will be available for anyone else. For one publication to win, everyone else has to lose.
  • This is a dangerous proposition, and one can imagine a scenario where smaller publishers increasingly lose out of any market share when attempting to compete against the mainstream media.
  • Rather than rely solely on subscriptions, the revenues of which just go to one outlet, our industry as a whole needs to embrace alternative, low-friction models, such as donations, contributions, and the ability to purchase individual articles or memberships.
  • The democratization of media spend will not only prove more sustainable but it will also help expand revenues in the future.

Check out my full blog post here.

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