In the last decade, the search for the right business model has remained a main preoccupation for the media industry, including in Indonesia. Ads continue to represent the main source of revenues for the press but developments in technology, especially with social media increasingly undermining the role of mainstream media as a source of information, are also swaying where they go.
“At present, we are in a situation where online media is facing pressure or competition from social media. This is a phenomenon that has been happening for quite some time, following the appearance of social media,” Yusuf Arifin, Chief Storyteller at kumparan.com told Maverick Indonesia.
Readers nowadays, he said, tended to no longer seek information directly from media websites but rather from social media first before looking for further details from a credible national media.
“Readers are turning agnostic when it concerns sources of news or media, they will not go straight to the website of online media such as X, Y, Z, but will first check the social media and follow what is being recommended there before going to the websites for information,” said Arifin who formerly worked as a journalist for BBC World Service and the Australian Broadcasting Company.
This situation is inevitably pushing companies or profit organizations to opt for putting their ads in social media accounts with large followings rather than in the mass media. Social media accounts with a much larger number of followers and engagements than those of mainstream media companies.
This is forcing credible online media to seek to develop new business models in order to survive, starting from maximizing digital ads through search engines to the application of interest-based paid content such as what is being currently pioneered by kumparan.com.
Yusuf said that to survive, media could no longer behave like online media in general. The collapse of many media was unavoidable, especially for those that have been relying on the number of copies or clickbaits. Media readers in Indonesia are no longer seeking their news from quality media but rather from the popular ones. And this has led to information with bombastic, sensational headlines that are purely clickbait oriented. It is these clickbaits that are luring advertisers to put their money in media that have a high number of daily visitors.
Rather than depend merely on ad revenues, many are seeking to gain financial independence by developing paid services. But for Arifin, seeking a balance between credibility and popularity is a very complex problem. And the best way out, according to him, was to make readers return to basics. “People should be tempted to consume information content with good products that are in line with their interests,” he said.
Through kumparan+ that it is currently developing, Kumparan is attempting to capture readers based on their interests. This follows the results of a research on readers conducted by Kumparan which showed that millennials and the Y and Z Generations do not mind subscribing to paid online media as long as the content they get are of good quality, exclusive, unique, could not be found elsewhere and are interest-based.
Based on that research, kumparan+ has been looking for niche readers who crave for topics such as self development, self improvement, to exclusive fiction works specifically targeted at them. To enjoy these exclusive contents, presented in text, video, photo gallery to podcast formats, subscribers pay a monthly Rp20,000.
“We think that if we want to run a paid service, it cannot be based on news. Because the competition is with so many other news-based media, many of them offer their news for free. Why would you pay when you can get it for free?” he argued.
For Arifin, it is hoped that by applying a paid service model, a media company could become free from all kinds of influences, thus allowing both financial and editorial independence. “It has to be paid (services) if you want to be independent. How else would you finance it if not through paid services?“ he ventured. (*)