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E-Paper: How Digital News is Becoming a Revenue Driver

Gundel Henke

Gundel Henke

The publishing industry has constantly experienced disruptive innovations. From the invention of the printing press to the rise and proliferation of social media platforms, publishers have needed to respond to technological innovations and rapid business model changes.  

This is especially true for publishers today. Digital disruption has imposed significant amounts of pain on “traditional” publishers who used to predominantly rely on print distribution. While they could rely on classifieds and other advertising revenue to pay a whole host of journalists, these publishers have seen those revenue sources dry up. As fewer readers are picking up hard copies of newspapers, small and large publishers alike must rely on new revenue sources to keep their lights on.  

Fortunately, publishers can rely on e-papers as a way to drive more revenue. From the smallest local newspapers to the largest and most notable publications in the industry, publishers have an excellent opportunity to generate more revenue and deliver an alternate reading experience for their audiences.  

E-papers and Their Advantages 

As we discuss e-papers and the benefits they offer to publishers, it is critical to take a step back and agree on what an e-paper is. You can think of an e-paper as an electronic display of a physical newspaper. It is as if the reader is consuming a physical newspaper, but they are doing so in a digital form. The German Audit Bureau of Circulation (IVW) goes one step further and describes e-papers as “The digital edition of a press publication which is identical to its print counterpart in terms of content and layout.” 

E-papers typically come in the form of a PDF version of a print copy. This is self-explanatory, as publishers are creating optimized PDF versions and then distributing those e-papers as they see fit. From there, readers can access e-papers on their desktops, laptops, tablets, or mobile devices. While the precise design may depend on the device that the reader is using, e-papers are essentially trying to replicate a physical paper, but in digital form.  

With this understanding in mind, you can probably think of several different advantages that e-papers provide.  

For starters, e-papers offer an additional distribution channel for publishers. Should they choose to do so, publishers can offer both paper and e-paper versions to their readers, which presents another opportunity to deliver high-quality journalism in a different format. The implications are substantial. Publishers are essentially meeting readers where they are at. Mobile has become the platform for consuming news, and publishers that ignore that fact are foregoing additional readers (and revenue).  

Further, e-papers allow publishers to find readers outside of their towns and communities. Before the rise of the Internet, publishers (except for the well-known national and international publishers) would almost always rely on readers in small towns and local communities. It was expensive (essentially, cost prohibitive) to distribute that publication to a city or town that was far from the publication’s home. With e-papers, however, distribution is ubiquitous. So long as a potential reader has an internet connection, they can read the e-paper. This is a huge unlock and significantly multiplies the total addressable market (TAM) that publishers can access. 

E-papers can drive a publisher’s top and bottom lines. We will speak more about the top line benefits, but the general principle is that e-papers can unlock new audiences and monetization opportunities to drive revenue. As for the bottom line, e-papers can help publishers save costs. Instead of paying for print copies to be distributed throughout a town or city, publishers can simply click on a few buttons to distribute e-papers.  

Finally, e-papers have finite content. Simply put, many individuals in our society are news tired. We have a wealth of information at our fingertips, yet there are some readers and consumers who just want a larger picture. An e-paper’s finite content is actually an advantage in these circumstances, as it gives readers a concise overview of the news that they want to consume.   

Demographic Structures of E-Papers 

E-papers aren’t just a theoretical concept that can add value to publishers across the world. In the past several years, e-papers have become increasingly popular. This is especially true in the DACH region. In Germany, for instance, studies have shown that 86% of respondents want digital content from their own region. As for e-papers themselves, 92% of those German respondents believe that their local e-paper is a fixture in their community. After reading that e-paper, 82% believe they are well-informed

Younger people tend to prefer digital content over paper content. We can see this in the data. According to a study by Reuters, 47% of individuals under the age of 35 first rely on their mobile devices to access the news. This is compared to 28% of individuals that are 35 to 64 years old. Simply put, younger readers expect to consume the news on their own terms, and these readers grew up in an era where they could access all kinds of news at their fingertips. They didn’t need to wait for the physical delivery of a morning newspaper to catch up on the news. Instead, from the moment they woke up to the moment they went to bed, they could access and consume virtually any type of media content.  

Ultimately, publishers that invest in e-papers can cater to older and younger readers alike. Whether it is an older reader who is more tech-savvy than her peers or a younger reader who wants to consume news wherever they are, e-papers can provide a wealth of value to all types of readers and audiences. 

How an e-Paper Can Drive Revenue 

With this understanding of e-papers in mind, let’s jump into how publishers can use e-papers to drive additional revenue. For as much as we can focus on the valuable stories that we can bring to our readers and audiences through e-papers, the monetization opportunities here can be quite compelling.    

For starters, e-papers offer the chance to generate more revenue through subscriptions. We are already seeing significant traction here in Europe. Germany is one of the countries where publishers have started to leverage this monetization opportunity. In the second quarter of 2021, German e-paper subscriptions rose by a little over 18% compared to the second quarter of 2020. This led to a total circulation of more than two million copies of e-papers per publication day. More than 1.2 million of those e-paper copies were obtained through a subscription.  

E-paper subscription revenue is particularly compelling because there are extremely low marginal costs. All publishers need to do is determine a way to design their e-paper and then distribute that e-paper over the internet. While there may be some associated costs with design, distribution is essentially free. With millions of individuals in Germany and the DACH region already purchasing e-paper subscriptions, there is a promising runway ahead.  

Beyond subscription revenue, e-papers also offer publishers another opportunity to display advertisements. These advertisements can come from clients that already purchase ads in a print edition or from clients who want to exclusively purchase ads in the e-paper. Whatever the case may be, you are creating digital real estate that you can monetize in the short and long term. 

Finally, an e-paper can be an opportunity to gain additional attention for your other revenue sources. For instance, if you host any type of conference or event, you can use an e-paper to spread awareness of that event. It is essentially a free marketing tool that you can use to generate revenue in your other lines of business.  

Taking Advantage of the E-Paper Opportunity 

E-papers offer a tremendous opportunity for the smallest publishers to the world’s largest publications. If you want to capitalize on e-papers, there are several things to keep in mind. 

First, don’t think of your e-paper as a backup or contingency plan. If you relegate your e-paper to the sidelines, chances are that it will offer a subpar experience to your readers. Making it a priority, on the other hand, dramatically increases your chances of success. 

From there, don’t hesitate to hire design professionals. While you may already have design talent in-house, you will want to find someone who can design a beautiful e-paper for your readers. Further, that e-paper must be free of bugs and easy to consume. Paying attention to the details here will absolutely pay off. 

Finally, don’t be afraid to innovate. Your e-paper doesn’t need to precisely look like your print edition. You can experiment and present your content in plenty of different formats. Who knows? You may create an e-paper that is more compelling or popular than your print edition. 

In the end, every publisher should be paying attention to the rise of e-papers. They are here to stay and they certainly have the power to drive more revenue for your business. The best time to start taking advantage of them is right now.  

How Purple DS Can Help 

We know the power of digital content. From the smallest publishers to some of the largest publishers in the world, a digital content strategy can help publishers deal with macroeconomic headwinds and grow their businesses. E-paper is an important part of any digital strategy

At Purple DS, we offer a solution for publishers who want to transform their content into digital products. Our AI-powered publishing software can help you hit your sales goals and deliver compelling content to your audience. We have helped more than 600 publishers and brands from nine countries as they have successfully implemented digital content strategies.   

To learn more about Purple DS, feel free to visit our website. Or write us a message. We will get back to you shortly.

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