Friday, December 28, 2012

Widely different opinions on the value of paywalls

Can this sign save the Globe?
The Globe and Mail has a lot at stake in its recent effort to get people to pay for reading the newspaper online. The desperate measure of showing readers an image asking them to pay, rather than showing the story, has become known in the industry as the paywall.  Today the Globe is thumping the paywall  tub again starting off with a brave little conceit that Apocalyptic Mayans didn't see the end of the world, but they are seeing the end of news for free online. Then there 's U.S. commentator Dana Blankenhorn who says investors should short the New York  Times because its paywall -- and paywalls everywhere -- haven't got a chance. Blankenhorn says paywalls are only a temporary fix. He quotes Matt Ingram of GigaOm as saying that the Times is only maintaining with its paywalls, not prospering. "The paywall acts like sandbags against the flood. They keep the floodwaters out but they don't stop the rising water. In the case of newspapers, this flood is an unsustainable business model. As Clay Shirky noted, in the debate over the Washington Post adding a paywall, sites like Homicide Watch cover every killing in the area, with a staff of two, while the Post newsroom has dozens of reporters but just covers a handful of cases a year. As Shirky wrote at his own blog last year a newspaper is a bundle, but the nature of the online world is to tear such bundles apart. The easy part of a paywall is getting money from 2% of your audience, he adds. The harder part is replacing 98% of your advertising business."

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