3 Simple Reasons why Paywall Models Aren’t The Death of News

  1. Print is dying.

Or at least, print sales are drastically falling. With digital space providing a low cost alternative for new publications, print media is facing stiff competition from a variety of convenient, delightfully interactive, handheld content.

As ad blocking software is costing the industry an estimated $22 billion worldwide, the revenue from the move to online hasn’t even begun to offset the loss from print sales. Just this week the Financial Times reported that BuzzFeed are now halving their $500 projections for 2016.

2. People are already getting used to paying for services.

Retailers like Amazon provide internal benefits for their Prime members. Netflix tripled their streaming subscribers from 26 million in 2012, to around 75 million in 2015. And in just the six months between March and September, Spotify managed to increase its number of paying subscribers from 30 million to 40 million worldwide.

The American Press Institute also reported that 40% of millennials are now paying to access news content.

So despite the noise about how difficult it should be to get the LimeWire generation to pay for news, other industries seem to be making it work. So why can’t we?

3. Quite simply, it can work.

The New York Times this year exceeded a pretty healthy total of one million subscribers, and the Wall Street Journal has also had some success over the past twenty years since its paywall launched (albeit somewhat fluctuating).

The Times recently reported record numbers of 413,600 subscribers across its print and digital formats, a stark contrast from the estimated 60,000 number large “vault of darkness” that Alan Rusbridger, then editor-in-chief of the Guardian, had predicted.

The dichotomy of subscriptions fees and loss of readership is in most cases, well, kind of false. When The Sun scrapped its paywall in 2015, it didn’t do much to pull back the decline in readership it was facing.

John Witherow, current editor of The Times,suggested that its paywall also allows it to focus on the quality of its journalism, rather than having to prioritise clicks in order to volumetrically maximise its ad revenue.


So, TLDR; Paywalls aren’t the death of news.

With print media declining, and people — particularly young people — becoming increasingly accustomed to paying for immersive service based platforms, paywalls don’t have to be limiting (and for a potentially weird, arguably nerdy generation of new journalists, they’re probably kind of exciting).