News paywalls vs. Unlimited Access


It is becoming increasingly difficult for media outlets to make money in our digital age, as discussed in a recent blog post of mine, so they therefore must take measures to do so. With print press sales ever plunging, many media outlets are introducing a paywall to view content. In the UK, the online publications currently charging for content include The Times, Financial Times, The Telegraph and The Independent, on varying scales of access allowance.

The principal benefit to the media outlets employing paywalls is a financial gain from the subscriptions. They additionally benefit from increased reader loyalty on the assumption that readers will make the most of their subscription by regularly reading articles.
So how do subscribers benefit from paywalls? Of course quality content is an obvious answer but if online users can just look to sites such Twitter and Storify for news curation, then why bother paying for a subscription? Furthermore, there are plenty of news organisations that offer good quality, free content. Examples include The Guardian for a wide range of news content and opinion pieces while objective local and worldwide news reporting is freely available from the BBC.
In order to differentiate themselves, here’s what four popular newspaper subscriptions promise to deliver:

Financial Times: Offers standard and premium descriptions with perks including ‘exclusive emails’ and ‘tools to help manage your investments’. You can also pay for a package subscription for both digital articles and the print publication. Prices range from £5.35 to £13.50 per week.

The Times: Have introduced 3 months for the price of 1 to entice new members; prices increase to £6-£8 after the 3 month period has ended. The ultimate package includes access to ‘200 years’ worth of archived articles and ‘over 9000 puzzles’

The Independent: Offer digital versions of the print editions as well as online articles. Perks include ‘customisable weather updates’ and ‘interactive puzzles’. The price for a digital subscription is £12.99 a month.

The Telegraph: Running an introductory offer of £12 for 12 weeks across all devices and £15 thereafter. Subscription entitles you to a reward scheme that promises ‘West End offers to exclusive giveaways’.

Take a look at this post by former editor in chief of the Econsuntancy blog, Graham Charlton, for an in-depth analysis and comparison of the existing paywalls.

I took to Twitter to find out if any of my followers paid for online newspaper subscriptions and whether they agreed with paywalls. The results were in resounding opposition to paying for a news service online.

paywall poll 2.png

paywall poll

Screenshots taken from my Twitter.

It seems there was a concurring judgement of many users across the web as evidenced by the lack of success faced by The Sun and their consequential decision to remove their paywall at the end of November. The Guardian reported that The Sun had “taken the decision to compete against major rivals in the free advertising market such as Mail Online”.

Despite the preference and move to free access in the UK, in Holland all newspapers have signed up to a service called Blendle. The site was created by Alexander Kloepping and allows readers to pay per article, the BBC reported. They have recently announced their expansion to the US in 2016. Only time will tell if such a site will be introduced in the UK or if existing paywalls will discover the same fate as The Sun’s.

Header image by Chloe D’Costa.



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