Tag Archives: pay walls

MediaMemo: Time Inc. on paywall plans and print/iPad-only content

As reported by Nieman Journalism Lab, Reuters blogger Felix Salmon noticed late last month that a Time Magazine story he had followed a link to online wasn’t there, instead there was this message:

To read TIME Magazine in its entirety, subscribe or download the issue on the iPad.

The next morning the story reappeared in its entirety.

Yesterday reporters at Nieman noticed that “nearly every major article” on Time Magazine’s website was no longer available in full:

Check out the current issue of Time Magazine at Time.com. Click around. Notice anything? On almost every story that comes from the magazine, there’s this phrase: “The following is an abridged version of an article that appears in the July 12, 2010 print and iPad editions of TIME.”

This afternoon MediaMemo has confirmation from parent company Time Inc. that there are title-by-title paywall plans and content across its publications will increasingly be print and iPad only. Spokesman Dawn Bridges outlines the publisher’s policy:

We’ve said for awhile that increasingly we’ll move content from the print (and now iPad) versions of our titles off of the web. With People, we haven’t had hardly any content [SIC] from the magazine on the web for a long time. Our strategy is to use the web for breaking news and ‘commodity’ type of news; (news events of any type, stock prices, sports scores) and keep (most of) the features and longer analysis for the print publication and iPad versions.

Full story at this link…

US newspaper publisher Gannett conducting ‘small-scale’ paywall tests

The Times finally took the paywall plunge today, but US newspaper giant Gannett has stopped short at dipping its toes.

The publisher is conducting a “small-scale test” by putting subscription services around three of its local titles, reports Poynter Online. The Tallahassee Democrat, Greenville (S.C.) News and (St. George, Utah) Spectrum will charge $9.95 a month for online-only access, fees for web-and-print bundles will vary.

Gannett had “weighed a lot of factors” in selecting three of the publisher’s 81 titles, vice president for news Kate Marymont told Poynter’s Bob Mitchell. “We didn’t want to start at our very largest properties.”

“[W]e know this is not the model,” Marymont acknowledged.

She said the company want to explore the revenue potential of niche content and the effect of paywalls in smaller markets.

“We want to test the idea that our journalism is more of a service than a product, and that we should give readers a selection of delivery methods.”

According to vice-president of corporate communications Robin Pence, the tests will help the company “develop a long term strategy for paid content”.

Full story at this link…

Comment: Reaction to the new Times and Sunday Times websites

Having had a day to “browse and snack” on the new Sunday Times and Times websites, what’s the feedback so far? What’s the reaction to the new editorial layout, multimedia changes and approach to journalism behind a paywall?

Starting with those bloggers who were given a sneak preview of the sites the night before they went live:

Malcolm Coles on the Times:

Without the need to chase search engine traffic or page views for advertisers, the idea of covering fewer stories but in a better way sounds appealing (…) an article, for instance, with an information graphic and tabs to let you explore the history and different aspects of the story without leaving the page. This package of content is brilliant – it works much better as an experience than lists of related articles or auto-generated tag pages.

But, asks Coles, shouldn’t readers be allowed to subscribe to just one site with completely distinct sections and topics?

It strikes me that there is either sufficient distinction in the audience for the two brands that you let users subscribe to just one site; or the audiences cross over so much that you combine the two sites in one and think about what makes most sense from the user’s point of view.

Forcing people to subscribe to both sites but keeping them entirely separate, with no cross-linking, seems a bit odd.

Adam Westbrook on the experience of reading the Times and Sunday Times online:

Well, at first impressions I am not bowled over: black text on a white screen, size 12, serif font – just like every other news website out there (and even this blog!). A web page can be any colour and fully dynamic – a concept no major newsroom is yet to grasp.

Rory Cellan-Jones on how a smaller audience might offer a more engaged readership:

[T]he company is convinced that advertisers will find the smaller audience of committed readers more attractive than the 21 million promiscuous passers-by who flit through the free Times Online site each month at present. While there’s been plenty of sniping from the sidelines by News International’s rivals, I suspect they are all glad that someone is at least testing the waters.

Tim Fenton:

It’s a slick package, although whether well-bundled, good content is enough of a differentiator from everything on Google News remains to be seen. For me, the biggest surprise is that the Times is not planning a splashy ad campaign to launch the paywall – it is relying chiefly on promotion in the newspaper.

It’s a low-key – and very analogue – start to one of the biggest experiments in modern digital media.

Of those reviewing the sites today, TechCrunch Europe expands on concerns raised that the papers’ journalists will miss out on social media conversation around their work, with thoughts on what the paywall means for mobile and ecommerce developments:

I don’t know The Times’ development roadmap, but if it does not have an API for its content (I presume it won’t since the whole of the new sites will be paywalled and invisible to search engines) then there will be no opportunity to catch the Third Wave of social or indeed of mobile or commerce. The Times cannot possibly come up with all the ideas which will happen in the Third Wave, which is why third-party developers will be so important.

Will the Times and Sunday Times be taking themselves out of the social media conversation with paywalls that redirect deep links to a generic login page? (Interesting to note findings from a Pew Research Center study, which report that bloggers will share more links and stories produced by mainstream news organisations, Twitterers less so, suggesting there’s is still a reliance of the social media news world on traditional news outlets. Interesting also – digital director of Mirror Group Matt Kelly’s remarks last week about the importance of honing news sites to niches that their readers identify as the values of that particular paper or brand.)

Adam Tinworth provides food for thought on the issue with his post on the potential impact of a subscription wall on a site’s community:

People sharing what they think will be identifiable, and they will have paid an entrance fee to get in there. This is, in fact, a community model, just one that differs from the wide, inter-connected community model we’re used to on the open web.

I recall Lee Bryant saying at last year’s Social Media Influence conference that sometimes its the wall that defines the community. And that maxim will be tested on these sites.

paidContent:UK: What is News Corp’s new ‘innovative’ subscription plan?

During a News Corp earnings call on Tuesday (4 May), Rupert Murdoch hinted at some ‘important announcements’ for new subscription plans – beyond what we already know about paywalls. paidContent:UK reports (and speculates):

“We’ll be giving a press conference in about three to four weeks which we hope will have some important announcements in,” Murdoch said. Will this mechanism charge for entertainment as well as news, a caller asked? “Oh, you bet,” Murdoch said. “Everybody’s been negotiating with Apple about television shows, films – we do VOD, everything’s on there.” Will it be a competitor to iTunes Store, asked the questioner? “I guess so; an extension of it,” Murdoch replied.


The broad, cross-media nature of whatever it is Murdoch will unveil is intriguing. The new Times websites will cost £1 a day, £2 a week or free with a print subscription – but details on the latter bundle are as yet scant, leaving the model on its own looking rather rudimentary. Perhaps earlier speculation, that Times Online could charge subs along with a BSkyB satellite TV subscription for example, aren’t so far-fetched after all? And who could rule out lumping other News Corp offerings – say, movie tickets – in as well?

Full post at this link…

Business Insider: FT deal with Foursquare will offer free subscriptions

The Financial Times is working with Foursquare to provide free subscriptions to users of the location-based social networking site who “check in” to selected locations, Business Insider reports.

The deal will target younger readers, for example by featuring coffee shops and other spots located close to universities and business schools, who may be turned off by the rates for a premium subscription to FT.com.

[T]he Foursquare deal opens the FT up beyond their typical straight-laced business subscribers, and attempts to get a decidedly younger, more web-savvy potential consumer interacting with their brand.

Full story at this link…

Le Figaro’s new online payment plans

Le Figaro, the French daily newspaper, has unveiled its new payment plan, with three tiers: Connect (free), Select (eight euros/month) and Business (15 euros/month). The focus on charging for additional features and services, rather than the site’s main news content – still outside the paywall.

Mon Figaro payment options at this link…

More detail at paidContent:UK…

Lost Remote: Newsday’s 35 subscriber pay wall

Since Newsday, a newspaper based in Long Island, New York, put up its $5-a-week paywall three months ago, only 35 people have signed up. “That’s a gross of $9,100 per year for the site,” reports Lost Remote.

Full post at this link…

More on AllThingsD at this link…

Alan Rusbridger: ‘I worry about how a universal pay wall would change the way we do our journalism’

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger strongly believes journalists should link to the specialist source. We’re rather fond of that approach here, so here’s his Hugh Cudlipp lecture in full. There’s a video interview at this link.

There is lots to pull out here, but key were his comments on pay walls – he doesn’t believe it makes commercial or professional sense:

[C]harging might be right for some bits of the Murdoch stable of media properties, but is it right for all bits of his empire, or for everyone else? Isn’t there, in any case, more to be learned at this stage of the revolution, by different people trying different models – maybe different models within their own businesses – than all stampeding to one model?


As an editor, I worry about how a universal pay wall would change the way we do our journalism. We have taken 10 or more years to learn how to tell stories in different media – ie not simply text and still pictures. Some stories are told most effectively by a combination of print and web. That’s how we now plan our journalism. As my colleague Emily Bell is fond of saying we want it to be linked in with the web – be “of the web”, not simply be on the web.

You can also hear Rusbridger talking about pay walls in Coventry two weeks ago: http://podcasting.services.coventry.ac.uk/podcasting/index.php?id=298

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Rob Grimshaw on the paywall backlash

FT.com managing director Rob Grimshaw, regular spokesperson for the paid-for content model,  has a real problem with the language used by critics of the paywall, he told Journalism.co.uk yesterday.

“It’s always put into pejorative terms.” he said, “It doesn’t happen to any other product: you don’t talk about restaurants giving people a bad user experience by giving them a bill at the end of it.

“It’s understood that something has been produced and it needs to be paid for; somehow with news content it has become a totally different argument,” he said.

It is almost regarded as a “sort of a criminal act to have the temerity to charge for some of our products,” Grimshaw added. “It’s something that we need to get away from.”

“We’re not a charity, we’re a company with shareholders: there’s nothing free about the information we produce – our editorial operation costs millions of pounds to run and we don’t see it’s odd to put a price on it. In fact, it’s probably the only way to run a reasonable business.”

Needless to say, he supports the NYT’s newly announced FT-style subscription model, scheduled for 2011: “Publishers need to get themselves out the hole and be a bit more bold and brassy,” he said.

Publishers shouldn’t, he added, be afraid to say their content has got a value. While he admitted the FT has a niche and affluent reader base for its subscriber model, he believes general news sites can do it as well.

“Our sense [is that] if other publishers do go for it, they will be able to build successful models.”

FT.com is not without its free content rivals, he said: “[W]e’re not short of competition – for every topic we cover on FT.com you can find a list of sites as long as your arm.”

“There are parallels between what we’re doing and what general news publishers will have to do as well. For me, the big thing is quality. It all comes back to quality. Whether it’s niche [or not] it’s got to be good”.

General news sites have the capability, brand and long heritage with which to build better quality sites, Grimshaw argued. They can be “far more compelling than one man blogging in a room,” he said.

“There are numerous ways that publishers can create sites which people are prepared to pay for because they are better than anything else that’s out there.

“I don’t see that the publishers are going to have trouble to get their users to pay for content.”

Grimshaw’s firm belief, as he has said before, is that newspapers cannot  live by advertising alone.

Citing IAB figures from last year (available at this link), he said it was paid-for search that took “by far” the bulk of the money: around 62 per cent; with 19 per cent to classified; and only 18 per cent to online advertising spend.

“It seems everybody in the whole world is trying to float their business on that [advertising model]. It’s just not big enough for every one of those businesses  (…) so something is going to have to give.

“Either publishers are going to find themselves in serious difficulties, or they’re going to have to come up with another way of making money.”

FT.com’s forthcoming content plans include a new Blackberry app, ‘one day pass’ subscriptions, and video for iPhone.

Read more about it on our main site.