The newspaper industry seems to be in a bit of a dilemma right now as they count at least a decade managing digital editions for those who only read online. While paper edition subscriptions continue to go down, the age of newspapers providing free content online are starting to come to an end. And that’s not necessarily going over well with readers who’ve been on the Internet long enough to think basic news content should be free.
After all, many people go on Google News daily and read free digital newspaper stories every hour of the day. When a newspaper starts asking loyal readers to start paying for content, what’s the real reaction?
For the big newspapers, a paywall concept has done well enough. USA Today reports that The New York Times currency has 727,000 digital subscribers. At the same time, smaller papers aren’t doing quite that well. Even though some are bringing in enough digital subscribers to keep things stable, most papers are starting to realize that something more needs to be done to improve the numbers.
If you publish a small or medium-sized newspaper, what do you do to reach the maximum readership that you could have? While exclusive content might entice some, only the major newspapers are going to have the reporting talent that people are willing to pay to read. The Boston Globe, though, may be setting a new pattern that all newspapers big and small may be able to use to gain the maximum subscriber base.
The Arrival of the Metered System
Using a metered system is certainly nothing new. Some small newspapers with digital subscription options are trying the concept of giving readers limited amounts of articles to read before forcing you to pay to read more. The big papers haven’t all gone that route and mostly prefer the general paywall system. However, the Boston Globe is now trying the metered system with the hope it’s the answer to reaching a larger digital subscriber base.
Their idea is if you hook people with free content for a limited time, they’ll be more compelled to want to pay for more. It’s a concept that makes sense in the abstract, even if it could also mean fewer subscribers considering some are just casual readers. This isn’t to say some wouldn’t spend hours reading at one online newspaper with A-list reporting names.
Should you use the metered system at your newspaper? You may have to analyze what you have first and what the psychological reaction would be to readers. By using analytic software, you can determine if you have more casual readers or if you have readers who spend more than an hour perusing your articles.
This can help you make a better decision on whether to drop a direct paywall or slowly entice people with basic content first. If metered systems prove successful, it may finally be the answer to newspapers joining a more profitable digital fray. Regardless, it could also paint a quicker demise for tangible newspapers that a certain contingent of the world population still enjoy.