Making money from content online

I found this session at the Monaco Media Forum yesterday fascinating. It features a debate between Mathias Dopfner, Chairman & CEO of Axel Springer and Arianna Huffington, Founder & Editor in Chief of the Huffington Post.

It starts off very amicably but soon gets to the heart of an old media / new media debate about how to make money from content online.

Is Herr. Dopfner a dinosaur? Is the Huffington Post model sustainable? I’d be interested to hear your views.





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7 responses to “Making money from content online

  1. Rory – I watched it and these are three eloquent speakers! Fascinating. Two other points, made by the panelists, struck me:

    1. It’s journalism that is broken, not the distribution channel. See Huffington Post for examples of how journalists constantly fall for fabrications from the military:

    2. No print journalist can properly report on anything that takes lots of words to analyse, e.g. a new bill etc.

  2. Rory Brown

    Thanks for starting the debate off Peter.

    I don’t really think it was an argument about print or online. Both of the speakers agreed that the future was digital.

    The debate as I read it was about whether you could charge for anything other than “specialised adult content” or high end financial information.

    You clearly can now – Mathais’ example of the new launch in Poland making more profit than HuffPost was great – but what about the future?

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  4. Absolutely. It’s about money. Huffington is a persuasive woman and has backers to fund her losses.

    As far as general publishing is concerned, there are lots of successful websites charging for things other than porn and financial, but they don’t publish detailed financial figures. As in all direct marketing, discretion (secrecy) rules.

    I think the lead, as with most things, will come from technology. As soon as the manufacturers catch up with current technological capabilities, they will produce integrated ‘compuTV’s’ for the living room (or some such clever name). Publishers such as Huffington Post will then produce TV programs via the Internet to play on your TV screens. Editorial articles and blogger comment will back that up with extra in-depth info — and TV as we know it today will shrink and die.

    Advertising money that is currently funding traditional media etc will be split many more ways. The UK government will no longer be able to monetize and influence airwave access so will either change the law or lose revenue.

    I don’t think it will take longer than around 5 years for all that to come to pass, because it has already started and the technology is already here.

  5. neillewis99

    Hi Rory – thanks for posting this.

    I see this argument in reverse and that the ‘content’ debate is fallacious.

    When I buy a newspaper, I am buying a package. Yes, I get ‘content’, but that content is wrapped within a brand.

    Brands have trust and values and relationships with me and other consumers.

    I believe that in traditional form, we have always bought the brand first, although I accept that we can be seduced by a headline or enticed to buy a evening paper to read the cricket score on the way home.

    However, most content purchases are repeat purchases. I buy Animals and You for my younger daughter when I pass through the airport – I used to be interested in the free gift, but no more – as I know she likes it what ever content it contains.

    So, the ‘content’ argument has only occured because the internet allows us to break down the brands.

    But here is the interesting thing. I love the new layout on It allows me to place all my favourite brands – and even my own brands – on the left hand column – so every morning I can review all the new headlines from my favourite brands before I decide which to read.

    My use of google has fallen – and I probably spend 90% of my time on my favourite brand sites.

    We are beginning to see the creation and defense of internet publishing brands.

    So, I think we – as consumers – begin from the aggregate or brand.

    The reason Huffington does well is because it is a very powerful brand. One of its brand values is free access and make a donation – that is written into its DNA. I wouldn’t like to run this publication as it is deeply political and close to fund raising – but that is what it is.

    I don’t expect my favourite newspaper to behave like this – and my relationship with it can be different so I’ll pay for it even though the Huff Post might be free.

    When we think first about ‘what would make you buy this brand online’ then I think we can have a debate about how to make content sell.

    If a FMCG company starts from ‘how to make money from my online brand’ then one of the first things it does is start publishing or pushing ‘content’ onto Youtube etc… This makes us think that they are publishing businesses – which I would disagree. They are brands that are using publishing and broadcasting to sell. They are treating it as a marketing channel.

    The challenge then, for media companies, is to ensure that their brand remains relevant for its audience and I believe that the essence of this lies in the transparency of media, which is not what you expect if you play a video game provided by a product seller.

    Now, the argument is turned on its head we can have Polish newspaper launches making money and we can have a free to air political online newspapers.

    It all makes sense – they just need to stick to their brands – which is what these participants are doing and why they are fighting so hard to defend their points of view.

    Hope I’m making some sense here.


  6. Rory Brown


    You’re making a lot of sense and thanks for contributing.


  7. Wow… That was an interesting watch. As for old media vs new media they will both have their place so long as old media is accessible via new media (and not the other way around).

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