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Paywall – Good or bad?

January 12, 2013

I’m sure all of you have heard that the newspaper industry is dying. People are reading less because of all the distractions there are today and with all the technology out there it more likely that a person on the train will pick up his brand new IPhone 5 and play a game rather than to grab the free newspaper lying lonely on the seat next to him. The Guardian has said that their newspaper industries will be shut down within the next 15 years. This is not news. What could be news though is “Paywall”. This I’m not sure that all of you have heard of.

The idea is to start charging people, who want to read newspapers or other journalism online, in order to make money and continue contributing with news and quality journalism to the world. A few news websites are already using this new system, and some have been successful, some have not.

Currently, two alternatives are being discussed (every website will choose their own path of course). The first suggestion is that in order to access a news website for example, you will have to set up a subscription to the site. Otherwise you will not be able to access it at all. The cost could be about £3 per month or something like that. The other suggestion is that some of the content on the website is free, while to gain access to the whole website you will need to pay a subscription.

Bill Mitchell, Head of Entrepreneurial and International Programs at the Poynter Institute, thinks that the second suggestion is the slightly better one.

Bill Mitchell

Bill Mitchell

“I think the so-called “leaky-wall” is the best bet as opposed to a hard wall. With an emerging business like this, flexibility is really critical and the metered or ‘leaky’ wall enables flexibility across many fronts. It enables the publisher to shape the terms of the two fundamental experiences that it offers to its customers: the paid experience and the free experience,” he said.

According to a recent investigation that was made by the New York Times, an amount of only 5% is willing to pay if Paywall activates. In my opinion this is just something people are saying right now because they perhaps think that they can convince the papers NOT to do this. But when online websites start to activate Paywalls I still think people will start paying to read the content.

How about advertisements? Will they disappear if the websites go through with this? Bill Mitchell shares his thoughts: “No, I think that one has a pretty simple answer. As promising as the meter has been in generating additional revenue it doesn’t begin to replace the revenue that a combination of traditional print subscriptions and various forms of advertising have generated in the past. But I think that revenue is going to be an important part of what will emerge as a much more diffuse hybrid revenue strategy for news organisations.”

If you ask me, in order to get people to pay money to access the same content that used to be free, it really needs an improvement. Loose some of the ads, make the site neater and bring in some really high quality journalism. For people to pay – there has to be some kind of difference, or they will feel really dumb paying… On the Times’ Paywall





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