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Premium-priced paywalls a boon for print subscriptions?

Premium-priced paywalls a boon for print subscriptions?

Every week seems to bring new points of view to the great paywall debate. Recently it was reported that smaller newspapers were more active in setting up paywalls than their big counterparts and that in the case of smaller publications, the paywalls' effect on pageviews was surprisingly small.

More recently, Business Insider pointed out another way to approach the subject, using the New York Times as an example. When weighing up whether the newspaper's decision to put up a paywall was a success or not, most commentators concentrate on examining the pageviews of NYTimes.com. But this is an incomplete way of looking at the effects of the decision, as digital paywalls have an inevitable effect on print subscriptions as well. And in the Times's case, the print subscriptions seem to be on the rise.

This information came from a senior NYT company executive, who told Business Insider that the number of the newspaper's print subscriptions is growing, Another executive confirmed this, saying that all print subscription schemes - 7 days, Weekender and Sunday - had seen an increase. Therefore, Business Insider deduced, the NYT's paywall that went live in March isn't only a new revenue model for the paper, it also helps in sustaining its print business.

Techdirt had suspected already before that the New York Times's paywall was first an foremost a way to encourage readers to subscribe to the print edition, based on the notable discrepancy in price between print and digital subscriptions. This would imply that the Times isn't as open-minded in embracing the web as some have thought and as some of its social media experiments have suggested.

The strategy of slapping a premium price tag on digital subscriptions would seem like an efficient way of indirectly supporting the core print business, based on the information about NYT's increasing subscriptions. A similar plan worked well also for the Newport Daily News, Nieman Journalim Lab reported. The introduction of a high-priced paywall was part of the paper's "print-newspaper-first strategy" and less about creating a new revenue model, and the paper's print sales went up as a result.

Sources: Business Insider, Techdirt, Nieman Journalism Lab



Teemu Henriksson


2011-06-09 17:10

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