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BizReport : Blogs & Content : April 22, 2011


Are paywalls the answer to online publishing?

Publishers began erecting paywalls for their online content several years ago, but as print circulation has decreased more paywalls have gone up. So far these paywalls aren't saving the newspaper industry, but in 2010 when paywalls were rejuvenated by some of the big publishers, people began taking note. Are paywalls the answer for publishers?

by Kristina Knight

Analyst Heather Dougherty with Experian/Hitwise recently compared visits to the NYTimes.com before and after their paywall went up. The paywall limits non-subscribing online readers to 20 articles per month. Dougherty found a traffic decrease of between 5% and 15% after the paywall launch. Only on Saturday, April 9 did traffic increase (7%); that weekend news of the potential government shutdown in the US hit every major publisher or broadcast portal. Page views also decreased by up to 30%.

That experience contradicts the success that a Vermont publisher has seen since the integration of it's paywall. Since October 2010 when the paywall was erected, 30,000 consumers have signed up to pay for content.

"One thing about Vermont, there aren't a lot of choices so [that publisher] is kind of the place to go for news. But, knowing their market, demographic segments and the type of content their readers want helped them succeed," said Gregory Smith, Director of Business Development with ClickShare, the company who helped create the Vermont paywalls. "Anything that is locally produced has specific value for people in that area. Once you know what the consumer finds of value you can create content that consumers will pay for."

Smith believes paid content subscriptions will continue to grow, and that consumers will begin buying online subscriptions if the content is well-produced, relevant to them and includes new information. He points out that tablet 'newspapers', those which aggregate content from a number of different sources, are catching attention from consumers after only a few weeks of distribution.

"Those editors know which stories will bring the reader back on a daily or weekly basis to read more," said Smith. He went on to say the creativity of the content will keep readers returning. "I this [this type of content] whets the appetite of consumers for more information, but those consumers [could] take a subscription to the content of the newspaper they like rather than the whole aggregated newspaper."

ClickShare works with publishers to create subscription and subscription management services.






Tags: ClickShare, content paywalls, Experian Hitwise, newspaper content, NYTimes.com, online content, online publishing








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