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Newspapers Dropping Paywalls Since Most Don’t Generate Revenue

Newspapers Dropping Paywalls Since Most Don’t Generate Revenue

“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.

Which papers do you subscribe to? Let me know in the comments!


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I am going to ask, again. I would be open to having an account where I pay 2 cents to the sources for every story I link in a comment or post, allowing up to 3 layers of links (6 cents per article).

This would have to be automatic and transparent.

Think about it. A story that goes viral could generate a good payday.

So many ways to find out info it will be hard for them to charge anything.
Heard on the radio yesterday that facebook has figured out how to defeat ad blockers. If so then it may be their best bet for revenue, but I don’t use my phone for news. Way to many ads cluttering up the small screen.
My laptop has more real estate so it’s easier for me to ignore those targeted ads. Plus I like to search for gun stuff to keep the spyware off balance. MSM and ad people don’t like gun stuff it seems. Not politically correct. And when I do search for other items I usually have a pretty good idea of which company I’m buying from so the ads aren’t timely anyway.
And in any case, it’s ads that pay the major freight so they can figure out how to charge advertisers more. Without me and others their site is just an electronic blip on the net.
Won’t cry any tears if the N.Y. Times goes belly up along with any other liberal papers pushing the agenda on us.

Which papers do you subscribe to?

That would be none. Never have, never will. In the past, I would occasionally buy a newspaper if there was some news I wanted to read about, but never felt a need to subscribe. It’s been so long, I don’t remember the last time I bought a newspaper.

I didn’t ask Algore to invent the internet, but since he did, I’ll use it.

And yet their ‘news’ sites are so full of popup and popunder adds with auto-play video clips and executing scripts at will according to whatever advertiser buys a nickle’s worth of space, that we have to use an ad blocker or have the whole browser lock up every few minutes.

My wife subscribed to the local (flaming liberal) newspaper (aren’t they all?) which comes out twice per week. I would have argued but we need the newsprint to light fires in our fireplace during the winter. They’re good for local news, but that’s about all.

Paywalls will only work when they develop a way for people to make micro payments cheaply.

Right now they try to get monthly subscribers but that won’t work because no publication/author can produce interesting and informative pieces THAT ATTRACT EVERYONE all the time.

But as with newspapers like they still are in many places, you see a headline and you see other things you want to read about so you plunk down 25 or 50 cents and proceed to read only SOME of the paper but your satisfied you mostly got your money’s worth. Partly because at the news stand you can preview what else is in the paper.

Only when they can develop a way for people to do this over the internet will pay walls work.

I know I won’t plunk down some double digit amount in the hopes that over the next 30 days they MIGHT write something I’m interested in reading.

And now right now there is no popular easy to use and secure way to do that. PayPal costs too much and is cumbersome, some of the others that rely on credit or debit cards are in the same category.

Once they can bring the ease of use, security, speed and reduce the cost of using it then and only then can content begin to be sold on the internet.

Meanwhile they’ll be nagging us more and more to let them show us their ads. But that’s screwed up too because most of them think the more the merrier. It doesn’t matter to them that their readers get bogged down in ads or get attacked with malware. They have to take responsibility and police the ads they allow before ad blockers are used less.

But hey we’re in a paradigm shift all over in the world of business and employment.

Soon we’ll all be doing stuff for free and getting a stipend from the Central Government. That’ll make things better. /sarc

I have no problem paying for a local paper or for a quality national paper with significant unique content. But $1/month is about my limit.

DieJustAsHappy | August 11, 2016 at 9:10 pm

Haven’t bought a newspaper for a long time. Don’t subscribe online. Have bookmarks for newspapers from all 57 (ha!) states, approximately 75 countries, and an additional 20 other news sources. And, of course, there are the blogs, such as this one, upon which I rely for factual reporting and stimulating opinion-sharing

The key is in the statement about the NYT, WSJ, and Financial Times: they have content people want to buy. If you’re in business you need the WSJ and FT. If you’re in politics, fashion or culture you need the NYT. The key is that they have useful content you can’t get (easily) elsewhere.

Remember a couple generations back: the Sporting News? If you wanted in-depth daily sports news that’s where you went. But now you can get sports 24/7 from hundreds of sources so you don’t need them — the News is gone.

So too most general newspapers: I can get national news everywhere 24/7 so why pay my local, ultra-liberal news rag? They just reprint the AP wire anyway; I get the AP wire directly over the net. If they want my money they have to offer me something I can’t get elsewhere. So far they really haven’t. Local news? I can get that from several small newspapers. Pick one and watch the rest die.

I subscribe to medical journals and medical aggregators (e.g., UpToDate) — why? Because they give me something I need that I can’t get easily elsewhere. They give me useful content.

It isn’t the medium and it isn’t the ads. It’s content. That’s what is hard.

I swapped my WSJ subscription from the dead tree version to the digital version around 6 years ago, and still value it. There’s enough unique content, and content that’s of interest to me, to make it worthwhile for me (YMMV).

I also used to have a subscription to the dead tree version of our local hometown paper, but more and more it seemed that the majority of “their” articles were just straight off the wire from AP or AFP. I cancelled that subscription, and haven’t bothered to subscribe to their online paywalled version. If all you’re getting is “churnalism” (re-churned wire stories), there are a hundred places to get them for free.

When the Internet was younger and a bit simpler, and I still thought that site statistics were interesting, I found a useful rule of thumb to be that eyeballs (a.k.a. views) drop by a factor of about a thousand if the site requires anything from the reader. “Anything” means subscription payment, even a very tiny one; registration, complete with spammable e-mail address; and disabling of an ad blocker (and in the struggle between a site’s potential ad revenue and my blood pressure, my blood pressure wins every time).

As for “papers” … well, I used to get Shotgun News, but after my subscription expired, I didn’t even notice for several months. Evidently, at some subconscious level, I don’t consider it terribly life-enhancing. I still haven’t renewed it.

For most of American history the general newspaper had a number of uses, most of which had little to do with news. Property seizures, abutter notices, the Police Blotter, obits, the classifieds, the advice columns, and, of course, the comics. And when it came to home repairs, nothing beat the newspaper for keeping paint off the floor.

Now, all of these functions are better served by specialist sites. Except keeping paint off the floor.

Local news (in-town stuff—elections, school closings, bake sales, police stings) has not been well developed online yet. That’s still best served by paper. Unfortunately those papers are the ones you see in stacks by the front door in pizza places and Chinese takeout emporia, and are free. Not much of a revenue model there.

    UnCivilServant in reply to tom swift. | August 12, 2016 at 7:21 am

    Now, all of these functions are better served by specialist sites. Except keeping paint off the floor.

    A 9’x12′ dropcloth cost me about $3. While it might have less square footage than a sunday paper, it’s also nonpermiable, so there don’t need to be several layers in case I knock over the tray or bucket. The other home repair use the print edition had was emergency insulation material for small gaps, but spray cans of polyurethane foam made that redundant too.

I used to subscribe to the local paper. I got tired of their dishonesty and the continued insults of gun owners. I dropped it and started a subscription with the Wall Street Journal. I get my local news from the tv station news websites. I haven’t regretted it.

“Which papers do you subscribe to?”

Not a single one. There are more than enough good writers for me to read for free, and I’ve never found a MSM hack that I couldn’t do without.

OK…here’s the thing: every time I read a news report (or see one on the news) on a subject about which I know something, the news report gets some major element of the story wrong. Not sometimes, not occasionally, not most of the time; every.time.

Now why would I pay to read some crap most likely written by a leftist who is trying more to push an agenda or validate their worldview than actually provide information when I’m about 99.99% sure that what they’re telling me is flat out wrong to begin with?

I prefer to be lied to, misinformed and proselytized to without having to pay for the privilege, thank you very much.

Paul In Sweden | August 12, 2016 at 9:10 am

It really does not concern me how the Leftist Political parties fund their propaganda so dropping paywalls at these Party outlets does nothing for me.

Why bother reading their rubbish? I still haven’t gotten over everything bad that happened in the 70’s was caused by a “drug crazed Vietnam veteran.” Since I’m not required to give them my money, it has saved me a lot over the years.

I’m not sure when honestly stopped being a part of the msm, but I’m not paying too be lied to.

Newspapers, by becoming shills for the democrat party, committed suicide.

Sad, because they used to be enjoyable to read. Same with Time Magazine and the like.

could it be more and more people are finding the newspapers more biased than ever? they can get their propaganda from some where else