So it has been reported that many online publishers (i.e. New York Times) will begin to charge users for digital content. On second thought, that makes sense - you pay for your Toronto Star, National Post, Canadian Business etc., so why would that all become free now just because the same (if not more) content is available online?
THAT is the objective viewpoint spoken with clear rationality and logic.
Unfortunately, the average consumer typically "thinks" with their emotions prior to using rationale. As an Asian Canadian, my genuine first response to any news that involves me ditching out my wallet is - "What the !#$#%^%*&%?! Are you out of your mind? Since when did we pay for anything over the Internet except for the service itself?"
So now, imagine thousands of your customers evoking such an emotion to the idea of a paywall for online content. Not good right? Now, further imagine an advertiser walk in and announce that they will "foot the bill" for user subscription fees because they want their consumers to be able to enjoy this digital content for free. Of course - such offers typically replace the price tag with a call to action and branded tagline.
Putting my marketing hat on:
As the article suggests, this return model is just merely a form of sponsorship. What is most effective about it is that it manages to grasp the emotion of these bitter online users and then playing on these emotions, solve their problems to position the brand as a hero.
I love sponsorships - because they are such an effective form of marketing amongst the ethnic markets. When executed as part of an integrated campaign, sponsorships can drive the emotions that you want in your consumers - they show that you care about the audience, know about the events that are important to them and is simply an act of involvement at a very grassroot level.
Perhaps, one of the more notable brands amongst the multicultural audience is TD. The company's branding efforts have been a seamless execution leveraging cross-media implementations and of course, sponsorships & PR.
Quite truthfully, as an active member of the local Chinese community in Toronto msyelf - I can say that TD's brand has been really well-integrated into both my community as well as my "consumer mind". Whenever an important event occurs within the Chinese community, you typically see TD's brand name plastered everywhere as a title sponsor. Whenever I have a financial service/banking need, I think of TD first.
As a matter of fact, I even switched all my personal banking from CIBC to TD quite recently (largely influenced by my immediate peers)... But hey! That proves another point: you cannot expect sponsorships to deliver a quantifiable result for your brand as it is a qualitative method after all. It does however, connect you with your consumers at the relevant touch points, generate brand equity and increase top-of-mind impressions; all to ensure that the next time a consumer has to make a purchase decision, they remember you and recall that emotion they experienced with your brand.