Here’s a roundup of this week’s news about paywalls.
The Wall Street Journal (s NWS) reported Thursday that the Washington Post (s WPO), which has kept its content free online as competitors like the WSJ and New York TImes (s NYT) have started charging, will likely add a metered paywall sometime around summer 2013, citing “people familiar with the matter.” The Washington Post itself picked up the story, citing another “person familiar with the plans” and saying that “the newspaper is close to a decision to introduce digital subscriptions and charge online readers once they surpass a certain number of articles or multimedia features a month, the person said. Access to the home page and section fronts would not be limited.” According to the WSJ’s sources, the print edition’s newsstand price will also increase.
Newsweek is ceasing print publication this month and will go online-only next year, likely under a metered paywall. Now Newsweek/Daily Beast Co. is also considering charging for the Daily Beast website, which has always been free. “Like many other media companies, we are exploring metered access down the line,” spokesman Andrew Kirk told Bloomberg. Newsweek/Daily Beast laid off an unspecified number of editorial staff yesterday.
At the UBS Investors Media Conference in New York this week, Gannett (s GCI) said revenues are up as a result of adding paywalls to 78 of its 80 papers (USA Today remains free online). Poynter reported from the conference: “Along with print subscription price increases, the digital pay initiative has led to 21 percent year-to-year circulation revenue increases as it is phased in.” The company made $20 million from digital subscription revenue this year and projects that will rise to $80 million in 2013. More:
So far, said Bob Dickey, head of community publishing, digital-only subscribers number just 40,000, compared to 925,000 taking a print-digital combination. But he said that he expects to market digital-only more aggressively in 2013 and grow that number five to seven times.
Predictably, most of the digital-only subscribers are new customers, he said, and they skew younger demographically than traditional newspaper readers.
The biggest challenge for the new year will be retention. Many of the subscribers are coming off three-month introductory offers, Dickey said, and the pay plans are so new that none have been through an annual renewal cycle yet.