Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Tearing down the paywall: First UK news site pay-for-access experiment comes to an end

I've never been a fan of paywalls for news websites.  It's nothing more than desperate businesses attempting to impose a broken business model onto a new digital business.

Despite that, it was good to see a media company put its money where its mouth is when Johnston Press decided to tip its toes into paywall water with an experiment on a selection of its sites.

But Press Gazette has revealed that the experiment was being wound up early because of poor take up by readers.  Conclusive proof that paywalls don't work for regional/local news?

Well, maybe not ... but it's a start.

PG reports:

The paid-for access trial, which charged readers £5 a quarter to access web content, was seen by many as a test to assess whether paywalls could be implemented on flagship titles such as The Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post.
One source has told Press Gazette the number of subscribers paying to access stories on the website of Selkirk-based the Southern Reporter was in the low double figures.

Of course Rupert Murdoch is going to introduce paywalls to The Times and Sunday Times in June.  It'll be interesting to see some of the ABCe figures later this year.  Not just for The Times and the Sunday Times, but also for their main competitors who will obviously see a healthy upturn in former News International traffic.

I may be coming at this from a purely journalistic perspective (ie not a business one) but I think good journalism (and bad journalism for that matter) should be freely available online for all.  That's what the web is about and that's what makes it work.

Now we are out of recession and news companies begin to see their revenues slowly begin to look towards the horizon again, if not yet skyward, now is the time to make online work for modern businesses through innovative means of revenue generation and digital advertising.

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