In today’s Evening Standard, Roy Greenslade makes a case for metered paywalls for newspaper websites. As he says, it is the pragmatic (rather than dogmatic) approach: users who get past the maximum number of articles each month are required to subscribe. This has several commercial benefits, not least that it does not hugely impact visitor numbers through redirection from Google and others. Advertisers, therefore, are happy; and potential subscribers become used to the service and are more likely to subscribe – it may even help preserve a few media jobs.
Greenslade notes that, since telegraph.co.uk introduced its ‘soft’ paywall in March, it has remained the country’s third best visited newspaper websites (behind the free to access Guardian and Daily Mail websites).
It is a technique pioneered in the UK – after much indecison – by the FT, which now has over 600,000 online subscribers. After similar debates, the New York Times recently alighted on the same model, and now has 700,000 subscribers – and is adding 100,000 each year. In 2003, I met the then Editor in Chief of the NYT’s website, and the debate on business models was raging – it has taken a good ten years to resolve. But pragmatism has won out.