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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Back to the paywall drawing board

The 'paid-for content' debate is on the agenda again with the iPad launch. The New York Times has announced that next year it will resurrect its paywall. Its last one came down in 2007. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette launched its 'members only' website for $36 (£22.50) a year last August. So, 1,000 subscribers just about pays for a trainee reporter. It is made up entirely of content not to be found in the newspaper ... meaning someone has to gather it. Meanwhile Tindle Newspapers, Johnston Press and, of course, Rupert Murdoch are plotting their own paid-content strategies. And adding fuel to the debate this month is a Harris Poll that says 77% of adults wouldn't pay anything to read newspaper stories on the web. And those who would pay, wouldn't pay much.

No surprise. We recently went through a newspaper and marked up every item that the management team thought people would be prepared to pay for online. The paper remained unsullied. The conclusion was that for anyone to pay online for content it would have to be unique, interesting and genuinely valuable - and that would require big investment and innovation in editorial. Then there was the discussion about how long the content would stay unique once up there. This particular paper has gone back to the drawing board. We suspect they won't be alone.


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