The Paywall Wake-up Call

Murdoch is not alone, it seems as a newspaper exec who does not fully understand what will happen if pay walls are erected around their content.  A study by the American Press Institute looked at the attitudes, side by side, of the execs and their readers. Executives feel that paywalls are essential to capturing new revenue opportunities and preserving their print circulation.  At the same time, respondents overlook the opportunities and discount the convenience of e-editions, which give users the experience of reading a newspaper online. Most are not charging for e-editions or are not charging enough. Only 67% offer an electronic edition of the paper on their Web sites , 59% of those offer it free to their print subscribers , and the median price for an online-only subscription is $5.99 a month. The big dichotomy lies in the opinions of how valuable the execs feel their content is vs how valuable the readers feel it is. 54% of execs feel their particular brand of online news and information is very valuable, yet only 44% of readers feel the same way.  68% of execs feel that it would be difficult to replace that information with the information found elsewhere (presumably for free), yet 52% of readers feel it would be easy. And this next stat should be the biggest kick in the pants to the newspaper execs: both groups were asked what alternative would be selected if their web site were to suddenly disappear from view.  75% of the execs said that readers would turn right around and reach for the print edition of their paper.  No they wouldn’t, say the readers.  30% of them would return to print, but 68% would turn to other local sites.  So this study has pointed out a real paradox.  On one hand, when looking at the price of subscriptions the newspapers do not value their brand highly enough, yet when looking at possible alternatives to their reporting, they value it way too highly.



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