Filling the Meter: Measuring the Effectiveness Of Paywalls for Online Revenue

Patrick Duprey


A metered paywall is "sticking" in many newsrooms as an attempt to increase digital, content-based revenue. A qualitative study showed that hiding exclusive, enterprise and niche content behind a paywall is helping the bottom line. The study included primary sourcing and interviews with 10-15 publishers and editors in online-only and newspaper newsrooms, as well as media industry executives and experts. The study attempts to address paid-content concerns as journalism continues its transition from print products to online and seeks new ways to have audience pay for content. Other conclusions include: a) The New York Times has set the paywall agenda for other newspapers to follow. b) Different strategies include the "best writers" or niche content approach that places content with an intense consumer following behind a paywall and non-exclusive content is open for all. The Milwaukee Journal- Sentinel has successfully placed its most in-depth Green Bay Packers reporting and analysis behind a paywall. The Boston Globe developed an alternate, pay domain name to complement the free The Globe tailored its pay site, which mostly includes the publication’s print content, to eliminate pop-up ads and other intrusive models to enhance the user experience. Overall, a metered paywall did not always lead to a decline in page views, as viewership in some newsrooms, such as The New York Times, even increased. Sources and original interviews include but are not limited to Marty Baron, editor of The Boston Globe; Bill Grueskin, dean of academic affairs at the Columbia Journalism School and former deputy managing editor for The Wall Street Journal; Alan Mutter, author of the “Reflections of the Newsosaur” blog and adjunct lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism; Mike Davis, assistant managing editor for digital development and sports editor of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel; and Rick Edmonds, media business analyst for The Poynter Institute.


Paywall; Newspapers; Online

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