The current climate for digital advertising—and the forecast for its future—is driving more and more newspapers to a paywall. The subscriber model allows outlets to have steady income streams to support paying writers and photographers.
Papers worldwide, from the U.K. to Switzerland, are asking readers to pay for access to their stories, according to The New York Times. That paper (one of the first in the U.S. to erect a paywall) reports that all across Europe, Asia, and the United States, publishers are looking to online readers to make up for the decline in print revenues.
Paywalls are critical for survival
Douglas McCabe, an analyst at Enders Analysis in London, tells the Times that this new model is “critical” to the survival of the newspaper business.
“The outlook for digital advertising for all but the very largest sites looks increasingly challenging. Therefore, it is critical that news services experiment with subscription models,” he tells the Times.
Right now, 300 American newspapers have a paywall system. In Britain, the Telegraph Media Group, which publishes that country’s biggest broadsheet, announced recently that digital consumers will need to pay for its content. The Sun, the U.K.’s most popular tabloid newspaper, is also planning to erect a paywall.
So far, a “metered” approach to charging for content seems to be working, for papers like the Times and Die Welt and Neue Zürcher Zeitung in Germany. The Times reports that to date, it has about 640,000 subscribers.
Netflix demonstrates the viability of charging for content
Critics of this model predicted that asking readers to pay for content they once got for free would be the final death knell for traditional newspapers. However, thanks to services like Netflix, online consumers of media are accustomed to paying for content that resonates with them. Fears that consumers would simply migrate to free news sites—or worse, to unreliable citizen journalism—appear to have been unfounded.
The shift in media has been a long time coming, and the new model for this industry continues to evolve.