When reporting on the current paywall frenzy within the newspaper industry, the media's eye is mostly set on developments at major newspapers, most obvious example being The New York Times. What is often missing is the point of view of smaller newspapers.
Now, there is new information on how effectively such papers are adopting models for paid online content. Nieman Journalism Lab reported on a survey that had a sample of almost 1,400 small or mid-size (77 percent had circulation under 25,000) daily US newspapers.
Perhaps surprisingly, smaller papers have been very active in starting to charge for online access: 46 percent of newspapers with circulation under 25,000 said that they are already doing so. Of papers with a circulation over 25,000, only 24 percent said the same.
It seems that for most of the small newspapers, paywall is the way of the future: of papers that don't charge for content, only 15 percent said that they have no future plans for a pay model.
What do the pageview numbers look like for smaller newspapers? Interestingly, the effect of paywall seems to be relatively subtle. The Columbia Daily Tribune began charging for online access in December. Its monthly pageviews are now at around 3 million, whereas before paywall the number of visitors was between 4 and 5 millions.