Slate tries to buck the paywall trend by focusing on membership

Instead of a paywall around its existing content, Slate is trying to convince its biggest fans to become members of a community — membership that will bring them additional benefits, including preferential access to writers and editors at the site. But will it be enough to move the revenue needle?


Michael Wolf

Michael Wolf is an Analyst for Gigaom Research and the founder and Chief Analyst at NextMarket Insights, a market research firm focused…

The pros and cons of newspaper paywalls: a Twitter debate

A comment about a Bloomberg story on the New York Times paywall started a debate about the positive and negative effects of paywalls that included some media industry luminaries such as the former CEO of Dow Jones and the former publisher of the Wall Street Journal.

How can we build a future of post-industrial journalism?

A manifesto on the future of news published by Columbia University’s center for digital journalism argues that the news industry as we know it no longer exists, and existing players need to figure out how to adapt to the new realities of news, and quickly.

How to get your readers to love paywalls

A Columbia/Indiana University study on reactions to the New York Times paywall suggests that newspapers enacting paywalls should emphasize financial need, not profit, when explaining them to readers. Still, many readers won’t pay.

No, giving away the news doesn’t mean lower-quality journalism

A Columbia Journalism Review columnist argues that a free or advertising-supported news model inevitably leads to lower-quality journalism. But there is no reason why ads can’t co-exist with high-quality reporting just as easily as they can subsidize pageview-driven clickbait, despite the CJR’s claims to the contrary.

Talking Points Memo and why membership is better than a paywall

Many newspapers and media outlets are implementing paywalls in a desperate attempt to generate revenue, but some players — including the political blog network Talking Points Memo — are offering their readers a membership-with-benefits experience instead. It’s an approach that more media players should probably consider.

Press+: Publishers are offering less free content online

Digital subscription platform Press+ says 39 percent of its client publishers now offer fewer than 10 articles free per month before a reader hits a paywall. On average, the company says, publishers offer 11 free articles per month, down from 13 at the beginning of 2012.

Newspaper restructuring — think steel, cars and airlines

The Journal Register newspaper chain has filed for bankruptcy for a second time, which some say means its “digital first” vision is flawed. But all it really means is that the kind of transformation required for the newspaper business will be measured in decades.

Why newspapers need to get to know their readers better

Although the ad-driven business model behind Facebook looks similar to that of a newspaper, the crucial difference is that the social network knows a lot more about its users. The more focus that newspapers put on doing the same, the better off they will be.

No, metered-content walls won’t save journalism

As more newspapers roll out metered paywalls and subscription plans, trying to duplicate the success of the New York Times, some journalists hope that being funded by readers will help stop the ad-driven pageview race and save quality journalism. But this argument is fundamentally flawed.

Techdirt and the value of the velvet rope approach to media

Is offering your readers membership benefits a better approach to revenue generation than putting up a hard paywall? The tech commentary site Techdirt thinks so, and has launched some interesting new features that other traditional media companies might want to pay attention to.

Is Mark Thompson what the NYT really needs right now?

The New York Times has chosen former BBC director Mark Thompson to be its new CEO. But is a man who has spent his entire career with a government-funded broadcaster the right person to reinvent the legendary newspaper at a time of almost unprecedented upheaval?

Why the Washington Post will never have a paywall

The Washington Post is one of the few major newspapers left without some kind of digital paywall or subscription model, but despite the financial pressures on the company, publisher Donald Graham says he remains committed to not charging readers for the newspaper’s content online.

Video: What works in paid content

At our recent paidContent 2012 conference FT’s Rob Grimshaw and Piano Media’s Tomas Bella discuss not just the future of online content payments, but also how to most effectively price your content when there are free alternatives elsewhere.

The hard truth: Newspaper monopolies are gone forever

Newspapers haven’t really had a monopoly on the news or the advertising market for some time, but they continue to behave as though they do. If they are to survive the transition to a digital future, they will have to learn how to compete for both.

Why MIT’s Technology Review is going digital first

In an interview with GigaOM, the editor of MIT’s venerable Technology Review talks about why he has decided to take a “digital first” approach to publishing the magazine, why he doesn’t plan to implement a paywall — and what he sees as an alternative.

Journalism: The best of times, and the worst of times

Journalism professor Tim McGuire, a long-time newspaper editor and Pulitzer Prize judge, says there is much upheaval in the media industry but a lot of potential as well — provided media entities give up their gatekeeper role and learn to serve their readers better.

Why Clay Shirky is right and Warren Buffett is wrong

Is Warren Buffett’s recent acquisition of the Media General chain a brilliant gamble, or an indication of his faith in the long-term prospects of newspapers? Clay Shirky argues it is neither — he says Buffett misunderstands some fundamental things about the business he has bought.

My personal take: 3 reasons I don’t like newspaper paywalls

The news that Canada’s largest newspaper is launching a paywall brings back memories of an earlier paywall attempt, and how that led one GigaOM writer to the discovery of blogging — and three reasons why paywalls are not the solution to the newspaper industry’s problems.

The future of media = many small pieces, loosely joined

Some traditional media entities seem to be hoping for a single magic bullet that will cure their revenue problems, but it is more likely success will come from making a number of smaller bets. Unfortunately, large media players don’t tend to be good at that.

Does the LA Times paywall smack readers in the face?

Newspapers everywhere are tinkering with “metered paywalls” in the hopes of hitting up the right mix of exclusion and access. The Los Angeles Times became the latest such paywall player last month, limiting readers to 15 stories a month unless they pay for a digital subscription.

Don’t build a paywall, create a velvet rope instead

Is there a way for newspapers to generate revenue without a paywall? Yes. They could try to think about developing a relationship with readers that is based on mutual exchange of benefits, and let the monetization flow from that instead of just asking for a handout.

Los Angeles Times To Add Paywall

It’s been a big week in newspapers starting to charge for content. First it was Gannett; now the Los Angeles Times will launch a metered pay…

John Paton to news execs: Abandon the gatekeeper model

MediaNews Group chief executive John Paton reiterated his “digital first” message in a fire-and-brimstone speech to a journalism group in Toronto recently, saying media entities of all kinds must let go of their attachment to the “information gatekeeper” model or they will surely perish.

Don’t penalize loyal users with paywalls, reward them

Paywalls are all the rage for media companies, but they have the unfortunate effect of penalizing an outlet’s most loyal readers. Why not try to come up with ways to reward those users for their engagement, instead of hitting them with a cash grab?

Why Not A Reverse Pay Meter?

As I ponder the future of The New York Times, it occurred to me that its pay meter could be exactly reversed. I’ll also tell you why this wo…

If a paywall is your only strategy, then you are doomed

More newspapers are rolling out paywalls, with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Canada’s PostMedia network the latest to jump on the bandwagon. But while they may have been encouraged by the New York Times, even that paper’s experience shows that a paywall is still a sandbag strategy.

Planning a paywall? Maybe you should sell some e-books instead

While the number of newspapers and other media entities that are erecting paywalls or launching subscription-based apps continues to grow, other content publishers such as The New Yorker are looking at different ways of monetizing their existing content, including e-books and one-off feature packages.

WSJ: Facebook app in one hand, paywall in the other

The Wall Street Journal has launched a new “social reading” app for Facebook that allows users to share articles from the newspaper with their social graph, and also be chosen as editors for other users. But how will these social attempts mesh with the paper’s paywall?

The paywall debate: monetizing news in the digital era

Free, digital content has shattered long-established ways of making money in the newspaper publishing industry, and publishers must now find new ways to subsidize content-creation costs directly. That includes everything from more-flexible paywalls to borrowing the business models of industries like online gaming and music.

DoubleRecall turns paywalls into advertising dollars

Start-up DoubleRecall is turning paywalls into branding opportunities that give consumers access to premium content on websites and mobile apps if they type out a few words from a sponsor message. The model boosts brand recognition, drives higher revenue for publishers and gives users free content.

Why newspaper paywalls are still a bad idea

Frederic Filloux at The Monday Note argues that the metered paywall approach can have substantial benefits for papers that implement one, as the New York Times has. But those positives are more than outweighed by the negatives, including the opportunity that paywalls create for free competitors.

Future of Media: Lots of Questions, But No Easy Answers

Columbia’s school of journalism has released a report on the media industry that describes a landscape filled with disruption and confusion. Although there are some hints of possible new business models, most media companies simply don’t understand enough about what is happening to their traditional businesses.

Can Publishers Create a Business Class For News?

What if media companies could come up with something similar to what business class achieves for airline passengers — would people pay for that? A news design agency thinks they would. But the problem for news companies is that others are already busy creating that experience.

The NYT: Portrait of an Old Media Giant in Transition

The New York Times’ latest financial results are a snapshot of a traditional media giant that is trying desperately to move into the digital future, but keeps getting dragged back down by the weight of its legacy businesses, whose health continues to decline.

Newspapers Hope Readers Will Throw Money Over the Wall

As the financial screws continue to tighten on traditional media companies, more and more are choosing to throw their eggs into the basket labelled “paywall” — including the New York Times. But in the long run, these walls are really just sandbags against a rising tide.

Newspapers Try to Reimpose Scarcity on News With Ongo

In another attempt to undo the Internet, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Gannett chain today launched a new service that they hope will convince readers to pay for their content, even though much of it is already available online for free.

It’s Official: News Corp.’s Paywalls Are a Bust

News Corp. has finally released official figures on the effect of paywalls at two of its British newspapers, which show that the two papers have lost a huge proportion of their previous readership, and only a tiny fraction of those readers have chosen to pay.

The NYT "Meter" Model: Required Reading

The New York Times announced yesterday that it is planning to launch a “metered access” system for its web site next year. Here are a few of the smart people writing about the topic that you should read (apart from us).