Online newspapers and Paywalls
In February 2016 The Independent newspaper announced that it will be the "First UK national newspaper to embrace a global, digital-only future". Of course, in reality sales of their printed edition have fallen drastically - from a high of over 400,000 daily copies to less than a quarter of that in recent years - and the move to digital was seen by many as inevitable. Several publications have faced similar sales pressures in the last few years and have moved to online-only versions. Examples include:
- The Independent will become online only in March 2016.
- Newsweek magazine went digital only in December 2012.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica stopped producing its famous printed volumes in March 2012.
- The Financial Times, previously using a soft (metered) paywall system, moved to a hard paywall in 2015.
- The New Yorker, which implemented a paywall system for subscribers in 2014 (though it continues to produce printed magazines).
- The New York Times has had several attempts at creating an online paywall (though it continues to produce printed newspapers).
- German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel started a new paywall initiative at the end of December 2015.
- Although over 100,000 people paid for online access to The Times and The Sunday Times, overall web traffic fell by 87% after its introduction of a paywall (BBC article).
- British newspaper The Sun launched a paywall in 2012 but then reversed the decision in October 2015, allowing free access. Within months it was reported that there had been a huge increase in readership.
- In February 2016 Newsweek - which previously moved to an online only model after falling profits - removed its online paywall to allow free access to 'most' of its articles.
- Although perhaps not the most recognised name in publishing, the Winnipeg Free Press has developed an interesting take on online subscriptions using micropayments. Users are charged 27 cents (13 pence) for each article they view. Crucially, users have an opportunity to decline payment for content by clicking a button at the bottom of the page and explaining why they did not find the content payment-worthy. The newspaper also offers more traditional subscription models.
Up against the paywall is a detailed article from The Economist that discusses the difficulties news organisations face when trying to make money, both in print editions and digital editions. Packed with examples, the article discusses different strategies, including both 'metered paywalls' and 'hard paywalls'.
Peddling news through tired business models will get you nowhere (The Guardian) discusses why newspapers' traditional monetization strategies - including subscription fees and advertising - do not work in the online world.
Soft paywalls retain more users than hard paywalls - by a big margin is a useful resource with statistics concerning the use of soft paywalls (which allow limited access) versus hard paywalls (those which allow no free content).