Newspapers have been struggling trying to find a business model they can use in the online world and a few have adapted a subscription model which only allows readers to see a portion of a story before paying. But even if the paywall pays off in the short term, isn’t the longterm price of a weaker readership base too high? Times in the UK were one of the early adopters who have been said to have lost almost 90% of online readership.
I think specialty pubs and dailies such as The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are among very few online new providers that have a unique enough content niche and loyal enough audience base to successfully charge for online content. Up until now, if I came across a news item with a paywall, I would just Google the topic and have a variety of alternative news sites to receive the same information. With content sharing and stiff news competition, paywall has not been an issue, but it looks like that’s about to change.
Google has hinted for nearly a year now that it was working on building some sort of paid content system for publishers, is reportedly set to launch such a system by year-end. Google is now reaching out to publishers to get them to sign up for a system, which it is calling Newspass. The Newspass allows participating news publishers to designate what types of payments (including subscription and micropayments) they want to accept from readers who find their content via the Google search tool. It is yet to be determined how far-reaching this new system will be. I suspect the UK and the US online content providers will be targeted.
What do you think? As an online reader, do paywalls stop you from getting the news content you search on a daily basis? Does the proposed Newspass concern you? NeimanLabs has published a report on the concept… very interesting.