Newspapers are still looking for the right model for their online paywalls.
News of The World, the latest News International papers to go behind a paywall (the others two being the Times and the Sunday Times, which became paid-only websites in July) has seen a 59 per cent decrease in unique users to its website in November, after the first full month behind a paywall, the Beehive reported, citing comScore data.
"In November 2010, Notw.co.uk attracted just 643,000 unique users, decreasing from 960,000 in October, half of which was spent behind the paywall which went live on October 14th. In September 2010, the website recorded 1.562 million unique users", the article said.
And the time spent on the site and page views is decreasing too, suggesting that many people just stop on the paywall sign-up page, going to look for free content elsewhere, they argue.
The News International paid online content model is strictly impenetrable. Many other models are possible, such as the "porous" one chosen by the New York Times, which is going to launch in January 2011. The NYT is going to give to its readers an unspecified number of free clicks per month, asking for payment after this number has been passed.
"The New York Times' switch to some sort of online pay-to-read system will be a financial success right off the bat -- even a windfall for the Times", says for example Barri Sussman, editor at the Nieman Watchdog.
Or, "While news outlets that are hewing to the pay-to-read model will persist in charging readers, the trend will continue to move against them. More and more content will be offered for "free" to consumers as distribution platforms continue to proliferate. Inevitably, this will erode the pay-model outlets' readerships, and we'll eventually start to see capitulation by all except the most "niche" journalism organizations, such as trade magazines", as the senior editor of public's radio Marketplace, Paddy Hirsch says.
Will the public mindset adapt to favour paying for news? Or will another business model altogether gain prominence?