How the Rezonence model is making publishing pay

Describing themselves as a ‘weird and wonderful bunch’ on the company website, Rezonence was set-up with the chief goal of helping publishers to build sustainable monetisation through digital. Speaking to their CEO that passion shines through, particularly as he highlights the importance of free and open journalism in today’s society. Through a product called FreeWall, the company is making that sustainability a reality, and seems to have hit upon a new approach to online advertising that benefits publishers, advertisers, and audiences simultaneously.

“What we do is ultimately to create a better monetisation model than the free model,” says Prash Naidu, CEO and co-founder of Rezonence. “The free model is obviously just giving away content for free, or the other option is putting up a paywall which gets your higher revenue numbers per user but much lower numbers of subscribers. Our model takes the best of both worlds really. So people actually pay a little bit through engagement. Imagine you’re reading an article and a couple of paragraphs in we put an ad. The rest of the article is hidden, or blurred out if you will. Below the ad we put a question about it, and all the user has to do is answer the question correctly to release the rest of the article.”

FreeWall differs from micropayments in that it asks for consumer engagement, as opposed to payment. This removes much of the friction associated with the emerging micropayments model to provide a more straightforward solution.  

“It’s really simple, it takes a couple of seconds, and it’s basically kind of one click. So from a user pov it’s very easy to get through. But from an advertiser point of view it delivers a lot: 100 per cent viewability, zero ad blindness, and it removes all fraud. So they’re willing to pay GBP£0.20-0.25 (US$0.26-0.32) per engagement, which effectively from a publishers point of view is a frictionless micropayment strategy. I mean people talk about micropayments potentially being the Holy Grail, but here we have micropayments with none of the friction.”

An interesting by-product of the success of FreeWall has been an evolution of the digital ad format. Ad-clutter has become an increasingly important issue in recent years, so much so that publishers have actually begun to scale down inventory to re-boot the user experience. What Rezonence are endeavouring to do is help retain the traditional advertising model by updating the way we think about, and engage with online ads.  

“When people say advertising doesn’t work, you’ve got to understand why advertising doesn’t work. The stat is people are exposed to around a thousand banners a day. Can you remember the last banner you saw? If you remember it, can you remember the product or the brand? Like no, no-one can! So, advertising isn’t working as a monetisation model for publishers because a standard banner fundamentally doesn’t work as advertising. Why would the advertisers pay for something that doesn’t work for them?”

“So with FreeWall what we’ve done is to create a much more effective form of advertising that’s vastly more effective, and we’ve done brand recall studies and so on. Now the advertisers are happy to pay, because they’re getting something that actually works for them, and in return it works for publishers.”

While one of the key trends in 2018 has been to pivot towards a ‘paid user’ regime, FreeWall is a reminder that there are innovative advertising formats out there, and that they can still pay. We asked Naidu if part of the thinking behind the Rezonence approach was not only to make publishing sustainable, but the traditional ad-funded model within it also.  

“That’s exactly what we are preaching. Because what we want to do is move digital advertising away from what we call the sort of high frequency/low impact model, i.e. lots and lots of ads all the time, that basically everyone ignores. We’re saying OK give me your focussed attention – and I only need it once a month, once a week – and in return you can have my entire website free and ad free. That’s the value exchange. And from a readers pov you can imagine that is a great deal. Imagine being able to visit your favourite websites, completely ad free, in return for one click a week, and you’ve got everything.” 

Amid talk of advertising offerings and micropayment strategies, it’s easy to forget that user experience is key to a successful media offering. And at a time of growing fake news and misinformation, a quality press is just as important in bringing information to society as well as enjoyment.  

“With all of these things you’ve ultimately got to look at it from a user pov. Yes we’re a B2B company, but we always think: how can we help the publishers to deliver a better service for their readers. If we can do that, then it’s going to work for the publishers too.” 

“First and foremost, you want to make sure that readers have access to as much information as possible. Especially good quality information. That is vitally important for society because if all the good quality publishers start putting their good quality content behind paywalls, then what you are going to allow ‘out there’ is all the fake news and the propaganda. That’s not great for society. So our model offers a way for publishers to keep their content free, but earn a lot better, and carry on doing the vital work that you’re doing.”

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