Speculation that Telegraph Media Group is planning to start charging for some of its online content has been brought up again today by Marketing magazine.
The magazine’s report claims that the publisher is talking to digital agencies about overhauling Telegraph.co.uk and is considering a hybrid part-paid, part-free model from September.
Officially, TMG says it is keeping its options open, issuing a statement that “absolutely no decisions have been made on the introduction of a paid-content model. Like all publishers, TMG continually evaluates the developments in the digital sector”.
The metered approach, if adopted, means readers could access a small number of articles for free before being prompted to register, and could share links on social media.
Tech news site the Register, in its own inimitable style, discusses the issue in a post headlined: “Telegraph mulls cash alternative to suicide”.
“The Telegraph, like other papers, has spent a small fortune in building up a web audience of 31 million, chasing web fads with the dignity of a dad at a disco,” it says.
“But how fashions change. Losing most of the 31 million casuals who make up the Telegraph’s web audience may not be such a disadvantage if it can extract some value from the loyalists.
“Ad agencies naturally love qualified upmarket readers, and with the web, they’ve never been sure they’ve been getting them.”
Gordon Macmillan, writing on Haymarket’s social media blog The Wall, says the metered approach is winning the most favour with publisher so far, with the Daily Mirror apparently tipped to be considering a similar method.
“It is the one that makes most sense in how it relates to the rest of the web – containing within, as it does, a degree of openness that allows the essential social media seeding and sharing of content. That is essential.
He predicts that Mail Online – which is already the biggest UK newspaper website with a record-breaking 54 million unique users – will be the big winner if the Telegraph starts to charge.
The Guardian’s media editor Dan Sabbagh says the proposed model is “cautious” – and not so much a paywall as “a pay fence, sitting somewhere in the distance at the end of a large field.”
He writes: “True Telegraph fans will be discovered through the system, and the exercise might help bring some loyal readers into a new model of payment.”