When paywalls work in publishing


Today in the UK the Johnston Press, a large local newspaper group, put its online content behind a pay-wall, while BoingBoing wrote an engaging – yet completely unrelated article on paywalls.

For me this smacks of desperation.

We know that the publisher is in trouble so perhaps some income is better than none, but surely the income from a paywall will be negligible?

Today’s post on Boing Boing summed the argument up for me. To succeed with pay-walls, publishers need not only an established monopoly on something valuable (local news, scoops, reporting quality) but also a plan to translate that into advertiser interest. Paywalls alone, unless they are ridiculously expensive, just won’t be enough.

The Johnston Press doesn’t have a monopoly and locals can turn to the BBC, Commercial Radio and other local and weekly papers.

The other question their paid for strategy raises is whether or not it offers anything to advertisers? My hunch is that they will lose thousands of unique users who are currently eye balls for advertisers.

Where paid for strategies work is when there is high value content. This blog keeps banging on about Manchester Confidential, but isn’t their business model the classic example of when payment can be charged? The site has original content, an extremely local focus and with very little competition.

Yes, The Manchester Evening News has food reviews too, but it’s not the same as ManCon, which has unusual content and can innovate because it is not tied to a publishing giant.

Good luck to Johnston Press, I hope the management has an ace up their sleeve.

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