AddThis SmartLayers

Publisher claims success for metered paywall model

A regional publisher is claiming success for a metered paywall experiment saying the number of paying subscribers is now exceeding those for its printed newspapers.

Newsquest’s Herald and Times Group introduced the paywall for its HeraldScotland website in December 2011 when the site was relaunched.

The site now has thousands of people paying to read its online articles and the group claims this exceeds the combined total subscriptions for the printed Herald and Sunday Herald.

The Herald and Times has declined to give an overall figure for the number of subscriptions to the paywall, which cost £1 for the first four weeks and £2,99 thereafter.

The Herald’s website is the only one within Newsquest to currently have a paywall but it was revealed at the Journalism Skills Conference in November that discussions were being held within the group about whether other titles should follow the same model.

Regional managing director Tim Blott said it was clear from the figures that the metered paywall model had worked for the Herald titles but declined to say whether it should be adopted in other parts of the Newsquest group.

Tim told HTFP: “It is up to other publishers to take their own decisions.  I can only comment on what we’ve done and it works for us.”

“What it demonstrates is that customers want news in different formats and are prepared to pay for it online as they would be in print.”

The increase in subscribers comes despite the number of free articles for non-subscribers being reduced from 10 to just six stories a month last August.

Tim said he believed the printed and digital offerings complemented each other and the group’s reach and influence had increased.

Tough digital targets have been set by management for their editorial staff in 2014 to ensure readers receive the fastest and most reliable breaking news service.

And the editorial department now has plasma screen which track the most popular online stories.

Preliminary figures for the HeraldScotland site show the average monthly unique visitors for July to December 2013 were 1.425m, up 16pc on the first six months of last year.

The last ABC figures for the first half of 2013 showed HeraldScotland was the fastest growing website for its daily unique users, which increased by 53pc year-on-year to 63,695.

  • Editor’s note.  Earlier versions of this story erroneously reported that the number of online subscriptions now exceeded the combined circulations of the Herald and Sunday Herald, as opposed to the combined number of print subscriptions.  This was published in good faith as a result of statements provided to HTFP on behalf of the Herald and Times.

9 comments

You can follow all replies to this entry through the comments feed.
  • January 8, 2014 at 8:33 am
    Permalink

    This isn’t quite the success story it seems. A metered paywall means you pay for what you consume, and don’t pay very much. In that respect, a figure of number of subscribers doesn’t mean very much, unless we know their average spend. Then you ask the question whether the audience being turned off by the metered paywall would actually generate more cash. Interesting, but by no means proof that people generally are prepared to pay for both print and digital.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • January 8, 2014 at 9:25 am
    Permalink

    This story is factually inaccurate. It states that digital subscriptions are now higher than print sales. But the company’s own press release states that digital subscriptions are higher than print subscriptions. A very different thing.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • January 8, 2014 at 10:25 am
    Permalink

    Not if it’s putting off more people who could lead to more ad revenue, it’s not.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • January 8, 2014 at 11:31 am
    Permalink

    Bob, IMHO I think its better to have lots more people paying a little than a few paying a lot for a printed product. Surely it’s then up to the ad department to sell the online ads on the back of that – maybe they need to start ‘ ‘thinking digital’ a bit more, and target ads to the users interests which is how Google seems to work. Print is not completely dead but it is turning into an expensive niche product, of interest only to the older generation.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • January 8, 2014 at 1:44 pm
    Permalink

    Give people something good I’m sure they’ll pay. But it’s got to be superior to what’s being offered at the moment, certainly in the regional press around my way. The MEN, for example, is chocful of football that is hackneyed or reported elsewhere, as football is the most covered sport by far. You’re not going to get many people paying for this sort of content when it can be obtained elsewhere.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • January 8, 2014 at 2:03 pm
    Permalink

    ‘Scoop’ is absolutely right. The digital opportunity for the regional press is to provide content that others aren’t and to be fiercely protective of it. I would like to see the key players in the UK regional media take issue with content aggregators – Google et al. If we’re generating the content, why let others profit from it at our expense?

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • January 8, 2014 at 2:41 pm
    Permalink

    Commenter “devil in the detail” has the detail wrong. A metered paywall does not mean “you pay for what you consume.” That would be microcharging, an approach that has not succeeded at any newspaper. It simply means usage is metered, and at specific breakpoints, business rules may be enforced.

    In the case of the HeraldScotland website, three articles over the course of a month are free to unregistered visitors, after which a challenge screen appears. Registered users may view six. Paid users (under any of five plans) may view an unlimited number. All of this is on the page at http://www.heraldscotland.com/subscription.

    Meters are now in operation at hundreds of US regional newspapers, where they allow casual visitors to sample content freely. The breakpoint typically is set somewhere between five and 20, depending on how serious the newspaper is about consumer revenue and how willing it is to accept some attenuation of Web traffic. This is driving significant increases in consumer revenue at many newspapers, which is highly welcome at a time when advertising revenue is down, and the bundling of digital services with print is proving to have value in subscriber retention.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
  • January 10, 2014 at 7:27 am
    Permalink

    “And the editorial department now has plasma screen [wot no “s”?] which track the most popular online stories.”

    Would it not be more cost-effective for reporters to monitor these trends through the website’s content management system or a dedicated app? Buying a plasma telly for a task that could be done on existing computers seems a tad frivolous in such austere times for the industry.

    Report this comment

    Like this comment(0)
Take part in our Reader Survey here