ABC recently announced plans to initiate a paywall for some of its online content starting this June, hoping to alleviate some of its financial troubles and increase revenue. The announcement comes in the wake of ABC's restructuring plans and its decision to eliminate 300 to 400 jobs through buyout propositions.
ABC's initiation of a paywall should come as no surprise to those watching media news over the past year. Beginning with the success of the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal's moves to paid content, NewsCorporation, MediaNews and the New York Times followed in their path with plans to erect paywalls by 2011. Just this week, the Washington Post announced its launch of Capital Business, a business weekly for subscribers only.
These changes result from a steep decline in ad revenue for online newspapers over the past year, with American newspapers earning 17% less from advertising on the web than they had a year earlier, according to the Economist. The Washington Post alone lost four percent of its revenue in the fourth quarter of 2009, and new paid content plans hope to alleviate some of the financial stress of the past year.
Although ABC has not yet released specifics concerning their paywall strategy, Paul Slavin, ABC News Digital's senior vice-president seems optimistic about the ability for consumers and producers to be satisfied with their paywall offerings.
"It's about finding some sort of functionality or added value product or package that we can ask people to sign up," Slavin said in an interview with PaidContent.
News sites that have pioneered the paywall strategy, such as Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, offer some content for free while hiding more behind paywalls or subscription requests. Slavin emphasized that ABC was open to such a strategy, stating "There's no reason that pay and free can't live together and support each other."
Slavin went on to raise a question which still lingers in the minds of most online news providers: "How much do we put behind the wall and how much do we keep free?"
The next year promises to bring a number of new responses to that question, though the best answer will be up to the consumer to decide.