Posts tagged with ‘paywalls’

Summer Reading from The New Yorker

The New Yorker is opening up its Web site for the next few months, letting visitors read everything currently being published — along with archives back to 2007 — for free.

The move comes alongside a site redesign.

Via The New Yorker:

Beginning this week, absolutely everything new that we publish—the work in the print magazine and the work published online only—will be unlocked. All of it, for everyone. Call it a summer-long free-for-all. Non-subscribers will get a chance to explore The New Yorker fully and freely, just as subscribers always have. Then, in the fall, we move to a second phase, implementing an easier-to-use, logical, metered paywall.

Images: Twitter posts from The New Yorker… and an ellipsis for good measure.

journojunction:

Have a very merry paywall Christmas!

FJP: When newspapers answer your question.

journojunction:

Have a very merry paywall Christmas!

FJP: When newspapers answer your question.

Over the last couple years, reddit traffic and usage have continued to grow by leaps and bounds — in October 2012 alone we were up to over 3.8B pageviews and more than 46 million unique visitors. Our server costs also continue to grow, so we have a choice to make: we can start running a bunch more ads, or we can give you, the community, more reasons to support the site with your own money through reddit gold.

Reddit CEO Yishan Wong, blog.reddit.com. Now is the Time… to Invest in Gold.

Avoiding overt commercialization because you’re afraid of alienating your online community is honorable, but it will eventually lead to a big question — where, then, do you make money?

Wong, as Mathew Ingram pointed out earlier today, has subtly reminded users about Reddit Gold, a paid membership that comes with perks. Wong also told readers that, no, they are not a very profitable site. They need help, and so they’re asking members to pay if they can.

Ingram thinks it may work, and that it could even work for news sites:

There’s no question that being a community already gives Reddit a better chance of success with this kind of thing, but it is a model that I think more media companies could implement as well, instead of just putting up a blanket paywall around all of their content. This is the idea behind what Wall Street Journal managing editor Raju Narisetti and author Jeff Jarvis have both called a “reverse paywall” — which provides benefits to loyal users and readers instead of charging them — and it seems like a much better fit if what you want to do is build a relationship with your community.

The key is to build and maintain a community where users are able to build reputations for themselves, either through loyal interaction with content, or continued contribution to the community. Think karma. 

It may also be that the community needs a strong membership within its large population. Members with Reddit Gold, however, are no such group. But one user has the right idea — noting that some members occasionally see their own artwork posted without attribution, it was suggested that there be a “creddit” button which links to and gives points, perks, etc. to the members that created the shared work.

As Ingram points out, other robust communities have disappeared after the owner of the site tried to profit from them:

Those kinds of decisions, along with other design-related moves that Digg made, arguably poisoned the site’s relationship with its community to the point where many core users left — in many cases for Reddit — and the site’s long slide into irrelevance began.

How can Reddit and similar sites (and even news sites) make money, then? Well if it’s all hinged on their community, it doesn’t hurt to have a strong one that’s filled with, as Clay Shirky has put it, love — members who continue coming back to have conversations, share content and create.

We have been worried about the direction Wikileaks is going for a while. In the recent month the focus moved away from actual leaks and the fight for freedom of information further and further while it concentrated more and more on Julian Assange. It goes without saying that we oppose any plans of extraditing Julian to the USA. He is a content provider and publisher, not a criminal.

But Wikileaks is not - or should not be - about Julian Assange alone. The idea behind Wikileaks was to provide the public with information that would otherwise being kept secret by industries and governments. Information we strongly believe the public has a right to know. But this has been pushed more and more into the background, instead we only hear about Julian Assange, like he had dinner last night with Lady Gaga. That’s great for him but not much of our interest. We are more interested in transparent governments and bringing out documents and information they want to hide from the public…

…The conclusion for us is that we cannot support anymore what Wikileaks has become - the One Man Julian Assange show. But we also want to make clear that we still support the original idea behind Wikileaks: Freedom of information and transparent governments. Sadly we realize that Wikileaks does not stand for this idea anymore.

Anonymous, Statement on Wikileaks.

Background: On Wednesday, Wikileaks began releasing 200,000 “Global Intelligence files” containing some five million emails from and to the private US intelligence firm Stratfor.

Wikileaks alleges that because of the close connection between the company and the government, “these GI Files releases will shed insight into key U.S. federal election players.” For example, the first release of almost 14,000 files are from 2011 and contain the keywords “republican”, “GOP”, “Romney”, “RNC” and “GOP”.

Further, the files were originally obtained by Anonymous-related groups.

However, when visitors went to Wikileaks to take a look at the files they were hit with a paywall. This was a Javascript overlay requesting a donation. Without making one, a user couldn’t access the documents.

And that set Anonymous off. Or, since it’s a decentralized activist group, it set off those behind @YourAnonNews who wrote to their 640,000 followers, “This, dear friends will lose you all allies you still had. @Wikileaks, please die in a fire, kthxbai.”

Forget the Paywall, Consider the Surveywall →

About 150 US news sites have some sort of paywall (give or take 150 or so). Some are hard, some are soft and some are in between.

All have been written about extensively.

But what if we looked at walls from an entirely different direction? Google’s done this with their Consumer Surveys. Instead of asking readers to pull out their wallets to access content, they’re asked to answer a single question. Think of it as a Surveywall.

Frédéric Filloux describes it like so:

Eighteen months ago — under non disclosure — Google showed publishers a new transaction system for inexpensive products such as newspaper articles. It worked like this: to gain access to a web site, the user is asked to participate to a short consumer research session. A single question, a set of images leading to a quick choice.

The solution is one that’s beautiful in its simplicity. Market research is an almost $30 billion industry. And while a lot of it is much more than having people answer surveys, a lot of it is people answering surveys.

So what if you target surveys to, say, readers of certain sections of The Miami Herald, or Wired, or Car and Driver. The researcher wins because it’s a lower cost solution than traditional outreach. The publisher wins because they’ve gained a revenue stream by running the surveys. The reader wins because her wallet stays in her pocket.

There are caveats, of course, which Frédéric outlines:

In theory, the mechanism finally solves the old quest for tiny, friction-free transactions: replace the paid-for zone with a survey-zone through which access is granted after answering a quick question. Needless to say, it can’t be recommended for all sites. We can’t reasonably expect a general news site, not to mention a business news one, to adopt such a scheme. It would immediately irritate the users and somehow taint the content.

I’m not so sure it’s unreasonable. Different, yes, but the entire digital enterprise and the economics behind it is different.

The solution though reminds me of reCAPTCHA, an initiative started at Carnegie Mellon and now run by Google to crowdsource book digitization by harnessing a few seconds of millions of users’ time by having them enter the text they see in a traditional CAPTCHA box (the first word is machine readable, the second isn’t and that’s the one that Google hopes you can decipher).

As Google explains:

About 200 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that’s not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into “reading” books.

In theory, the micro-surveys of a Surveywall would work similarly. With enough scale to conduct a full survey one question at a time, market researchers gain the insights they’re looking for. The publisher earns more for running the survey than it would get with traditional display advertising.

The question, as it always does, comes back to the reader.

Will she take a few seconds to answer a question, or think it intrusive, close the page and move on?

And that, most likely, comes back to the king of it all: just how valuable is the content that the publisher is providing? — Michael

Journalists are True Alphas When it Comes to Comment Trolling
Background: Yesterday in the Columbia Journalism Review Howard Owens published a piece called How David Simon is wrong about paywalls. In some five thousand plus words he expounds on how paywalls cannot, and will not, save the newsroom.
First comment, by David Simon to defend himself includes such gems as, “Your numbers are just whack. Insane. Off the charts.”
Then come Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz, creators of the Software as a Service paywall system Press+, and a host of other media thinkers sniping at one another.
It’s a lively discussion, to be sure, and well worth the now very long read. It is, after all, a gathering of many who have worked with and without paywalls and study the overall economics of sustainable news operations.
Start with David Simon’s original post and be sure to hit the comments. 
Then move on to Howard Owens’ rebuttal.
It may be very much inside baseball but sometimes inside baseball is a very good place to be.

Journalists are True Alphas When it Comes to Comment Trolling

Background: Yesterday in the Columbia Journalism Review Howard Owens published a piece called How David Simon is wrong about paywalls. In some five thousand plus words he expounds on how paywalls cannot, and will not, save the newsroom.

First comment, by David Simon to defend himself includes such gems as, “Your numbers are just whack. Insane. Off the charts.”

Then come Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz, creators of the Software as a Service paywall system Press+, and a host of other media thinkers sniping at one another.

It’s a lively discussion, to be sure, and well worth the now very long read. It is, after all, a gathering of many who have worked with and without paywalls and study the overall economics of sustainable news operations.

Start with David Simon’s original post and be sure to hit the comments. 

Then move on to Howard Owens’ rebuttal.

It may be very much inside baseball but sometimes inside baseball is a very good place to be.

Warren Buffett buys 63 newspapers, we scratch our heads
About two weeks ago, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett bought 63 newspapers from Media General, a news company that operates throughout the US Southeast. The purchase has gotten a lot of criticism, as you can imagine, and some praise too. Let’s dissect the argument.
The papers themselves are small locals, and Buffett has said he wants to focus on local reporting. Fair enough.
via Buffett:

Our future depends on remaining the primary source of information in certain subjects of great importance to our readers. Technological change has caused us to lose primacy in various key areas, including national news, national sports, stock quotations and employment opportunities. So be it. Our job is to reign supreme in matters of local importance.

Buffett knows that much of what traditionally made a newspaper a newspaper – the classifieds, funnies, world news – is now free and online. So he’s wants to lean on local issues that only a local paper will cover. There’s got to be a market for that, right?
And he wants to charge for online content, probably:

We must rethink the industry’s initial response to the Internet. The original instinct of newspapers then was to offer free in digital form what they were charging for in print. This is an unsustainable model and certain of our papers are already making progress in moving to something that makes more sense.

But he’s missing something, according to the critics. Namely, that you can’t expect subscriptions or paywalls to finance a paper.
 writes Clay Shirky:

He makes much of drops in print readership, but circulation has not been strongly correlated with revenue for two decades now.

Buffett expects that quality reporting will boost readership, boost sales, and then boost business. But it’s not that simple.
Shirky goes on:

Reading the letter, you’d never know that papers make most of their money from companies, not citizens, and have done for the better part of two centuries. It is disruptive competition for ad dollars, not changing reader engagement, that has sent the industry into a tailspin.

FJP: The jury’s still out on paywalls, but if they only sort-of work for the New York Times, then their adoption by a paper in a town of 10,000 doesn’t incite our confidence.
Matthew Ingram of GigaOm puts it well: newspapers have changed. The internet has most of what a paper has always had, and makes it easier to find. And the ad money, which has always financed the news, has followed our collective attention away from print.
Ingram writes:

The real business of a newspaper has been to aggregate content — news, but also comics and horoscopes and classifieds and lifestyle tips — as a way of capturing the attention of readers, and then sell that attention to advertisers. And the problem for newspapers, both hyper-local and national, is that advertisers are no longer as interested in that arrangement as they used to be. Much of the attention that they seek to monetize has gone elsewhere, to websites and services like Facebook — especially the attention of younger readers with disposable income.

But Warren Buffett is a business man, and as one of the world’s most successful investors, it’s not surprising that he’s not in much danger of losing money.
via Devin Leonard:

Yet it’s also important to look at the price Berkshire is paying for the Media General papers. As recently as six years ago, newspaper companies sold for more than 9 times Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Stephen Weiss writes today that Buffett’s company paid around 4 times Ebitda for the Media General assets.
At that low price, Berkshire Hathaway could make a nice return on its money. As the Wall Street Journalreported earlier this month, it has done surprisingly well since purchasing the debt last November of Lee Enterprises, another troubled newspaper publisher, from Goldman Sachs.

And there you have it, for now.
Image: Fiscal Muses.

Warren Buffett buys 63 newspapers, we scratch our heads

About two weeks ago, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett bought 63 newspapers from Media General, a news company that operates throughout the US Southeast. The purchase has gotten a lot of criticism, as you can imagine, and some praise too. Let’s dissect the argument.

The papers themselves are small locals, and Buffett has said he wants to focus on local reporting. Fair enough.

via Buffett:

Our future depends on remaining the primary source of information in certain subjects of great importance to our readers. Technological change has caused us to lose primacy in various key areas, including national news, national sports, stock quotations and employment opportunities. So be it. Our job is to reign supreme in matters of local importance.

Buffett knows that much of what traditionally made a newspaper a newspaper – the classifieds, funnies, world news – is now free and online. So he’s wants to lean on local issues that only a local paper will cover. There’s got to be a market for that, right?

And he wants to charge for online content, probably:

We must rethink the industry’s initial response to the Internet. The original instinct of newspapers then was to offer free in digital form what they were charging for in print. This is an unsustainable model and certain of our papers are already making progress in moving to something that makes more sense.

But he’s missing something, according to the critics. Namely, that you can’t expect subscriptions or paywalls to finance a paper.

 writes Clay Shirky:

He makes much of drops in print readership, but circulation has not been strongly correlated with revenue for two decades now.

Buffett expects that quality reporting will boost readership, boost sales, and then boost business. But it’s not that simple.

Shirky goes on:

Reading the letter, you’d never know that papers make most of their money from companies, not citizens, and have done for the better part of two centuries. It is disruptive competition for ad dollars, not changing reader engagement, that has sent the industry into a tailspin.

FJP: The jury’s still out on paywalls, but if they only sort-of work for the New York Times, then their adoption by a paper in a town of 10,000 doesn’t incite our confidence.

Matthew Ingram of GigaOm puts it well: newspapers have changed. The internet has most of what a paper has always had, and makes it easier to find. And the ad money, which has always financed the news, has followed our collective attention away from print.

Ingram writes:

The real business of a newspaper has been to aggregate content — news, but also comics and horoscopes and classifieds and lifestyle tips — as a way of capturing the attention of readers, and then sell that attention to advertisers. And the problem for newspapers, both hyper-local and national, is that advertisers are no longer as interested in that arrangement as they used to be. Much of the attention that they seek to monetize has gone elsewhere, to websites and services like Facebook — especially the attention of younger readers with disposable income.

But Warren Buffett is a business man, and as one of the world’s most successful investors, it’s not surprising that he’s not in much danger of losing money.

via Devin Leonard:

Yet it’s also important to look at the price Berkshire is paying for the Media General papers. As recently as six years ago, newspaper companies sold for more than 9 times Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Stephen Weiss writes today that Buffett’s company paid around 4 times Ebitda for the Media General assets.

At that low price, Berkshire Hathaway could make a nice return on its money. As the Wall Street Journalreported earlier this month, it has done surprisingly well since purchasing the debt last November of Lee Enterprises, another troubled newspaper publisher, from Goldman Sachs.

And there you have it, for now.

Image: Fiscal Muses.

If the news business on the web is depressing, contributing to the existential angst that has gripped every established news organization, mobile turns the story apocalyptic: there is no foreseeable basis on which the news establishment can support itself. There is no way even a stripped-down, aggregation-based, unpaid citizen-journalist staffed newsroom can support itself in a mobile world.

Michael Wolff, The Guardian. Mobile and the news media’s imploding business model.

Wolff writes that the news media’s reliance on advertising is getting it into ever greater trouble as news readers move from the Web to mobile platforms.

His math is rather simple. For every $100 spent on print advertising, $10 is spent on the Web. And for every $10 spent on the Web, $1 is spent on mobile.

This isn’t because marketing dollars aren’t interested in mobile advertising. It’s because the rate publishers can charge for mobile advertising is so meager.

His guestimated future: there will be more and more paywalls, at least for mobile access.

Bypassing the NYT Paywall, Redux Edition

Yesterday I reblogged a Reuters post that reports that The New York Times will limit free articles to 10 per month. After the repost I linked to a short video we created a while ago about getting around the paywall. To make sixty seconds short, it shows that you just need to delete everything after the “?” mark in the URL and reload the page to access any article you want.

Here’s some criticism for doing so:

  • Via Morgan Little from the LA Times: Seems a bit off for @the_FJP to be advocating paywall workarounds…
  • Via OnTheChangGang: Don’t be a jerk, if you really want to support journalism and journalists pay to gain access to their hard work and efforts. C’mon use your mind grapes where do people think the money for salaries and investigative stories come from?
  • Via SammyStokes: or you know, you could pay for a subscription so the world’s most important newspaper doesn’t go under.

I should say that the criticism is more or less valid. I should also say that my language (“FJP: Paywall got you down? Here’s our 60 second tutorial on getting around it.”) doesn’t help.

Here’s what I should have written if I was thinking at the time:

  • The New York Times has about 450,000 digital subscribers. Good for them. I set my parents up with both digital and print editions.
  • The New York Times has about 30 million unique visitors a month. Thirty million, if you do your math, is much larger than 450,000, impressive as that number may be.
  • This simple hack of removing everything after the “?” mark in order to access articles tells us that the New York Times is still focussed on the 99% of traffic that isn’t subscribing, and is trying to figure out how to monetize nytimes.com to make sure that those non-subscribing uniques can still access, share, and distribute content so that they can grow that number.
  • This leak is basically a punt on monetizing the 99% aside from the (considerable) revenue they’re pulling in from advertising and other related businesses.

And so, with that as my backstory to posting a link to a video about how easy it is to get around the NYT paywall, I wrote shorthand about how to do so.

Sometimes when you’re in the weeds you forget the forest for the trees but my link to circumventing the paywall is part of a larger and longer discussion that’s been going on at the FJP about paywalls and how they might work.

The New York Times is very much aware of how leaky their paywall is. It is very much aware that deleting a string from a URL gives anyone access to their content. This is a both a design and business decision that I can’t imagine they’re very much worried about. Otherwise, they’d close this gap.

So, in the meantime, I’ll post again — with the caveat that if you can afford a subscription, purchase a subscription — if you want to view a New York Times article but have bumped up against your monthly allotment, follow the instructions posted here.

If the New York Times wants to shut down this access they can do so quickly and easily. Until then, have at it — Michael

reuters:

New York Times Co said on Tuesday it will halve the number of free articles readers can view on its NYTimes.com site.
Starting in April visitors to the website will be able to read up to 10 free articles a month, down from 20 free articles previously. The change comes one year after launching the paid digital subscription, which now has 454,000 paid subscribers.
The Times, like other U.S. newspaper publishers, has been struggling with sinking advertising sales and dwindling print subscribers and has focused on improving its digital strategy to replace the lost revenue.
The company started 2012 without a CEO or a digital boss after former CEO Janet Robinson and former digital head Martin Nisenholtz retired.
Read more: New York Times cuts free digital articles by 50 percent

FJP: Paywall got you down? Here’s our 60 second tutorial on getting around it.
Update: We posted Bypassing the NYT Paywall, Redux Edition to clarify our comment

reuters:

New York Times Co said on Tuesday it will halve the number of free articles readers can view on its NYTimes.com site.

Starting in April visitors to the website will be able to read up to 10 free articles a month, down from 20 free articles previously. The change comes one year after launching the paid digital subscription, which now has 454,000 paid subscribers.

The Times, like other U.S. newspaper publishers, has been struggling with sinking advertising sales and dwindling print subscribers and has focused on improving its digital strategy to replace the lost revenue.

The company started 2012 without a CEO or a digital boss after former CEO Janet Robinson and former digital head Martin Nisenholtz retired.

Read more: New York Times cuts free digital articles by 50 percent

FJP: Paywall got you down? Here’s our 60 second tutorial on getting around it.

Update: We posted Bypassing the NYT Paywall, Redux Edition to clarify our comment


 

A Unique Paywall Plan in Boston

Paid and free, side by side: The Boston Globe became the latest news organization to institute an online paywall this week, but it did so in an unprecedented way that should be interesting to watch: The newspaper created a separate paid site,BostonGlobe.com, to run alongside its existing free site, Boston.com. PaidContent has the pertinent details: A single price ($3.99 a week), and Boston.com gets most of the breaking news and sports, while BostonGlobe.com gets most of the newspaper content.
As the Globe told Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman, the two sites were designed with two different types of readers in mind: One who has a deep appreciation for in-depth journalism and likes to read stories start-to-finish, and another who reads news casually and briefly and may be more concerned about entertainment or basic information than journalism per se.
The first thing that caught many people’s attention was new site’s design — simple, clean, and understated. Tech blogger John Gruber gave it a thumbs-up, and news design guru Mario Garcia called it ”probably the most significant new website design in a long time.” The Lab’s Joshua Benton identified the biggest reasons it looks so clean: Far fewer links and ads.
Benton (in the most comprehensive post on the new site) also emphasized a less noticeable but equally important aspect of BostonGlobe.com’s design: It adjusts to fit just about any browser size, which reduces the need for mobile apps, making life easier for programmers and, as j-prof Dan Kennedy noted at the Lab, a way around the cut of app fees required by Apple and others. If the Globe’s people “have figured out a way not to share their hard-earned revenues with gatekeepers such as Apple and Amazon, then they will have truly performed a service for the news business — and for journalism,” Kennedy said.
Of course, the Globe could launch the most brilliantly conceived news site on the web, but it won’t be a success unless enough people pay for it. Poynter’sSonderman (like Kennedy) was skeptical of their ability to do that, though as the Atlantic’s Rebecca Rosen pointed out, the Globe’s plan may be aimed as much at retaining print subscribers as making money off the web. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple wondered if readers will find enough at BostonGlobe.com that’s not at Boston.com to make the site worth their money.

Via Nieman Lab 

A Unique Paywall Plan in Boston

Paid and free, side by side: The Boston Globe became the latest news organization to institute an online paywall this week, but it did so in an unprecedented way that should be interesting to watch: The newspaper created a separate paid site,BostonGlobe.com, to run alongside its existing free site, Boston.com. PaidContent has the pertinent details: A single price ($3.99 a week), and Boston.com gets most of the breaking news and sports, while BostonGlobe.com gets most of the newspaper content.

As the Globe told Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman, the two sites were designed with two different types of readers in mind: One who has a deep appreciation for in-depth journalism and likes to read stories start-to-finish, and another who reads news casually and briefly and may be more concerned about entertainment or basic information than journalism per se.

The first thing that caught many people’s attention was new site’s design — simple, clean, and understated. Tech blogger John Gruber gave it a thumbs-up, and news design guru Mario Garcia called it ”probably the most significant new website design in a long time.” The Lab’s Joshua Benton identified the biggest reasons it looks so clean: Far fewer links and ads.

Benton (in the most comprehensive post on the new site) also emphasized a less noticeable but equally important aspect of BostonGlobe.com’s design: It adjusts to fit just about any browser size, which reduces the need for mobile apps, making life easier for programmers and, as j-prof Dan Kennedy noted at the Lab, a way around the cut of app fees required by Apple and others. If the Globe’s people “have figured out a way not to share their hard-earned revenues with gatekeepers such as Apple and Amazon, then they will have truly performed a service for the news business — and for journalism,” Kennedy said.

Of course, the Globe could launch the most brilliantly conceived news site on the web, but it won’t be a success unless enough people pay for it. Poynter’sSonderman (like Kennedy) was skeptical of their ability to do that, though as the Atlantic’s Rebecca Rosen pointed out, the Globe’s plan may be aimed as much at retaining print subscribers as making money off the web. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple wondered if readers will find enough at BostonGlobe.com that’s not at Boston.com to make the site worth their money.

Via Nieman Lab 

 
Satirical news site The Onion is the latest publisher to experiment with a paywall. Seriously.

“Like everyone else in publishing, we are constantly testing a mix of advertising and paid access,” The Onion chief technology officer Michael Greer tells paidContent.
“We have found that most of our readers share articles with each other, and flow in and out of our site, and we do not want to limit that behavior.
“There is also a set of avid readers, and we have chosen an article limit which allows that fan base to support us directly. On other platforms like the Kindle and Nook, we have had great support from our fans and other interested readers, which has given us confidence for this move.
“We are testing a meter internationally as readers in those markets are already used to paying directly for some (other) content, particularly in the UK where we have many readers.
“We are not in a rush. We really want to see how people respond, and apply those learnings to all of our platforms.

Unfortunately for The Onion, at least for now, their attempt to launch a paywall seems more like a comedic jab at their mainstream media counterparts than an actual revenue strategy. While I expect them to turn around and say “just kidding,” I applaud their moxie for attempting to charge readers for content they clearly enjoy.

Satirical news site The Onion is the latest publisher to experiment with a paywall. Seriously.

“Like everyone else in publishing, we are constantly testing a mix of advertising and paid access,” The Onion chief technology officer Michael Greer tells paidContent.

“We have found that most of our readers share articles with each other, and flow in and out of our site, and we do not want to limit that behavior.

“There is also a set of avid readers, and we have chosen an article limit which allows that fan base to support us directly. On other platforms like the Kindle and Nook, we have had great support from our fans and other interested readers, which has given us confidence for this move.

We are testing a meter internationally as readers in those markets are already used to paying directly for some (other) content, particularly in the UK where we have many readers.

We are not in a rush. We really want to see how people respond, and apply those learnings to all of our platforms.

Unfortunately for The Onion, at least for now, their attempt to launch a paywall seems more like a comedic jab at their mainstream media counterparts than an actual revenue strategy. While I expect them to turn around and say “just kidding,” I applaud their moxie for attempting to charge readers for content they clearly enjoy.

Why Paywalls for Local Papers Spell Disaster →

Via Matthew Ingram, GigaOm:

But to me, the biggest flaw in a paywall isn’t that the math is questionable, or even that a wall is inherently a backward-facing strategy, aimed at stacking sandbags around a paper’s content to try to keep out the digital hordes. The biggest flaw from a business perspective, particularly for smaller newspapers, is that walling up your content is an invitation to free competitors — from AOL’s Patch.com and Huffington Post to Mainstreet Connect and Neighborhoodr and Topix.net — to come and take away your readers.

Newspapers like the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal can make paywalls work because their content is extremely focused and (arguably) more valuable than that produced by free competitors. The New York Times is hoping it falls into that category as well, although as a mass-market newspaper, that conclusion is more of a gamble. But if you are a small-town or even medium-sized metro paper, walling off your content could be a recipe for disaster, by giving your more nimble competitors exactly what they are looking for: readers eager for a free alternative.

poynterinstitute:

NYTimes.com page views declined between 11 and 30 percent in the 12-day period following the pay wall launch, compared to the 12-day period preceding it. Visits declined during the same period, according to an analysis done by Heather Dougherty, director of research at Hitwise.

poynterinstitute:

NYTimes.com page views declined between 11 and 30 percent in the 12-day period following the pay wall launch, compared to the 12-day period preceding it. Visits declined during the same period, according to an analysis done by Heather Dougherty, director of research at Hitwise.