“Print is failing and digital is hard”
Newspapers continue to drop paywalls as more people aren’t willing to pay for a digital subscription, especially since so many others other free content. The AFP reports:
Newspapers in the English-speaking world ended paywalls some 69 times through May 2015, including 41 temporary and 28 permanent drops, according to a study by University of Southern California researchers.
Paywalls “generate only a small fraction of industry revenue,” with estimates ranging from one percent in the United States to 10 percent internationally, the study in July’s International Journal of Communication said.
“People are far less willing to pay for online news than for print,” said USC journalism professor Mike Ananny, an author of the study.
They noted that The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Financial Times are different “because of their unique content.” They have found success with their paywalls due to this. The Boston Globe raised their subscription to $1, but managed to keep 90% subscribers. Alan Mutter, a former editor, spoke to AFP:
“A publisher focused on the long term will recognize that it is reader revenue that is going to have to get them through this disruption,” he said.
“That means they need a large and experienced enough newsroom so the audience feels they are getting something sufficient and something unique,” he added.
“They also need to invest in the digital products so the experience is better.”
Others? Not so much.
The Toronto Star, The Independent, and The Sun recently dropped their paywalls. In America, the San Francisco Chronicle dropped theirs in 2013 and Dallas Morning News in 2014. However, the Dallas publication only allows 10 free articles a month:
“It’s hard for a general-interest website to charge for news that you can get for free with a few clicks.”
Paywalls can backfire also “because they put a barrier between the newspaper and the casual reader,” he added.
“They are truncating the size of the digital market, when the most important factor for digital is scale.”
Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism discovered that “only 10 percent of readers in English-speaking countries were willing to pay for digital news.” They also found that 15% in Denmark and Finland, 20% in Poland and Sweden, and 27% in Norway felt the same way. Mutter continued:
“Print is failing and digital is hard,” he said.
Although newspapers are losing online ad revenues to online platforms, they have the advantage of knowing their local markets and businesses.
“They have to work hard at being local marketing partners in the markets they serve,” Mutter said.
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