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Will Newspapers ever be able to charge for their online content?

Will Newspapers ever be able to charge for their online content?




A Paywall is a strategic system put in place to block the access to certain areas of a websites without membership payment. The websites that usually employ a Paywall scheme are those of periodical publications, those who release new editions of publications on a regular schedule.


An example of a Paywall can be found in the Wall Street Journals online website. They use a screen that requires payment to pass, to block certain articles from non-members, and therefore non-paying readers, to encourage them to pay for full access to the site. For Wall Street Journal, this has become a very successful scheme, making an estimated $65 million every year. It has however, also caused some controversy over raising the price for advertisers who pay to be behind the Paywall, appose to being accessible on the free site. Some people, for example George Crovitz, think this is acceptable as “ if people pay for a subscription, that’s an excellent indicator of the “engagement” that advertisers and agencies are looking for.” [1] 


An example of an unsuccessful Paywall is that of The New York Times online. They charged $49.95 a year or $7.95 a month for a subscription that allowed them access the latest publications on their website, which were blocked to non-members. This however drove advertisement charge through the roof, and it became almost impossibly unrealistic for advertisement companies to pay for their products to be shown within the Paywall site. This lead to the Paywall being taken down, only remaining for their ‘pre 1980s’ archive.  However, earlier in 2011, the New York Times Online released a statement[2] announcing that they would be re-starting their paywall, but would be running it differently. They stated that they have created a “paywall that will let you see 20 articles a month and thereafter redirect you to a signup for paid access.” However people have managed to find a way around this by using links into the site found on Google and Twitter, where people have posted them, inadvertently giving access to members of the public that have exceeded their limit.


Global events also affect the Online Newspapers ability to charge for their articles, or at least their need too. The latest and most prominent example of this was Hurricane Irene; which caused devastation across America. The New York Times announced via Twitter that “As a public service, @nytimes will allow free access to storm-related coverage on and its mobile apps. #irene”[3] This was followed with several other Newspapers doing the same; such as Wall Street Journal and, a Long Island publication.


Some blogging sites and online forums have publicly debating the worth of having a paywall within news websites; whether people felt that having to pay for access to the information is unnecessary and should not be forced upon the public; whilst others argue that if you were to buy a Newspaper that has been printed, but to gain access to the online content for free is unfair. People giving their opinions on the Q and A section of the ‘Yahoo!’ website seemed to frown upon the idea of a paywall being introduced to The Guardians online Newspaper, with one person stating that “- no. I think not. I suspect even executives from the GMG would say no. It is a common misconception that newspapers and other modern media make most of their revenue from sales and subscriptions. They do not. It comes from the sale of advertising space or time. The Guardian website is one of the most visited on the planet. If push came to shove I suspect that advertising revenue alone could keep the site afloat.”[4]


In conclusion; a paywall can be successful for certain articles and Newspapers that have a certain demographic following them; whilst if they are unsuccessful in holding up their paywall it can seriously damage both the financial side and credibility of the Newspaper in question.