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Its masthead describes it as the “Independent Voice of the South.” Others, affectionately, call it the Oddity.
Now the Otago Daily Times lives up to both labels with its decision to charge readers to use its website.
From mid-April, Dunedin’s leading newsroom will introduce a metered paywall offering between 15 and 30 free stories a month before readers have to cough up about $27 a month as a subscriber. Print subscribers already pay that figure monthly and will get the digital subscription free.
It will be the first major news publisher in New Zealand to do so, following many in the United States, Europe and Australia. And it could be in the right place, at the right time, to make it work.
Newspaper publishers in the United States have moved rapidly in recent years to create subscriptions for digital access to their news, and according to an in-depth analysis the landscape is converging around a couple leading models and price structures.
As the traditionally dominant revenue streams of print and advertising come under pressure, almost all newspapers are looking to their readers to contribute more. As of 2015, 77 of the 98 papers we examined have some form of a digital subscription plan that requires readers to pay for unlimited online access.
Seventy-one of those 77 have been launched within the past 5 years.
This exponential growth would have seemed unfathomable in 2009. Publications like The Guardian, The New York Times, Time Magazine and The Atlantic published op-eds questioning whether readers would be willing to pay for news online — and whether digital subscriptions would cause steep losses in readership and digital advertising.
By Damaris Colhoun, Columbia Journalism Review
A VOLATILE MARKET, plunging tech stocks, and fears of a looming recession (or at least, a major correction) are sending jolts through the media world. Last week Bloomberg reported that in December The Fidelity Blue Chip Growth Fund had cut Snapchat’s holding by 2 percent—its second write down of Snapchat in three months—and that Yahoo had reduced its valuation of Tumblr by $230 million, amid cost-cutting plans of its own. Meanwhile, The Guardian News & Media, publisher of The Guardian, recently announced it’s looking to cut more than $70 million in costs over the next three years, after losing more than that in 2015—despite its vast of flows of traffic and digital growth.
For media start-ups running off the fumes of their VC investments, and legacy newsrooms making the move to digital, these stumbles are a crucial reminder that traffic alone won’t keep them out of the red. As digital ad sales soften, investing in other channels of revenue—be it branded content, events, membership programs, or paywalls—will become increasingly important. These recent tech market tumbles also point to the trouble with growth: namely, that unless it generates revenue, it may not have much value. Not when investors are getting nervous and tech unicorns may be facing leaner times.
The WSJ closes the loophole from Google that allows people to view up to five articles daily from the search engine for free in spite of having an “opaque” paywall. And the EU and the US have reached another data safe harbor agreement pending approval by all 28 EU member states. That’s pretty big news for companies that do a lot of business back and forth across the Atlantic.
Read more about what publishers are discovering in this week’s Industry Insights, available now!