The Globe Tries to Close Pandora's Box Once More

newspaperI try not to do this too often, but I'm going to start this entry by sharing something I wrote almost four years ago. I called this How Should Newspapers Make Money Online? and I originally published it on February 17, 2009.

I actually feel sorry for the newspaper industry. I don't know about you, but I read almost all of my news now online and I don't pay a cent for any of it. I want it all, I want it instantly and I want it for free.

When people Google Andy Barrie's name, looking for information as to when he'll return to CBC Radio One, my blog entry on the subject is ranked #2. One of the few mainstream press articles on the subject belongs to the Globe and Mail, only they've hidden their article behind a form. You can't read the Globe article on Andy Barrie's leave of absence without buying 30 days access to it for $4.95 + tax. You can buy four articles for 30 days for $17.95 + tax.

At first this angered me. I don't want to spend over $5 just to read a single article online. The web is about articles being online forever and for free, right? And isn't $5 steep for a single article to be available to me for only 30 days?

I don't really know how newspapers are supposed to make money online in this day and age. I know I didn't pay the $5, and I'm not sure how many people out there would. In fact, just having the article offline will likely push people to other newspapers.

How should newspapers earn an honest buck in this age of the Internet, or are they S.O.L?

I still feel sorry for the newspaper industry, so I don't fault the Globe for giving the paywall another shot. The Globe and Mail has just launched Globe Unlimited. Here are the highlights:

There is no additional cost for Globe Unlimited for those who have a five- or six-day home delivery newspaper subscription. For those with partial week subscriptions, including Friday/Saturday and Saturday only, we are offering Globe Unlimited for a substantial discount at $4.99 per month.

For those who prefer to read online only, we are offering a trial subscription to Globe Unlimited for 99¢ for the first month, after which the cost will be $19.99 per month.

Casual visitors to globeandmail.com will still have access to 10 free items each month (including articles, videos, slide shows and other features), after which they will need to subscribe to Globe Unlimited to see more. The Globe homepage, section fronts, videos, stock quotes and Letters to the Editor will all remain free and accessible to the public, and will not count toward the monthly limit.

This model is definitely better than their previous paywall model, but will people be willing to spend $19.99 per month for something that was completely free until yesterday?

Be honest, would you spend that kind of money to access quality content online?


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Comments (19 - click here to join in!)

Derrick

No, I'm willing to spend that kind of money, but I'm willing to spend something. $22.59 a month (don't forget about HST) is more than I'm willing to spend, but I'm open to 1/2 that amount.

October 23, 2012 @ 10:50 AM

Lyle Lanley

$22.59 a month would scare me away and I'd end up skipping the Globe for the Star, Post or whatever.

Google News FTW!

October 23, 2012 @ 10:57 AM

Tom

No way. There are plenty of alternative news sources for free. The only people I see going for this are those readers who are really dedicated to their writers. However, if every news source did this or at least every decent one did this, $20 isn't bad, but it isn't cheap.

October 23, 2012 @ 11:06 AM

Tom

One more thing - good on them for offering a trial for next to nothing. It shows they believe in their content and that people will subscribe if they just get to sample it first.

October 23, 2012 @ 11:07 AM

Argie

I wouldn't pay.

Fortunately, this wont last long because if they're the only one charging, people will simply go to other sources for news (CBC, The Post, even The Star).

October 23, 2012 @ 11:40 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

Again, I don't blame the Globe for trying. Professional journalism deserves to be a paid occupation, and ad clicks and impressions can't carry the weight. The "almost free" trial is a good move.

1. The Globe diehards already get delivery 5 or 6 days a week, and they'll enjoy this. Of course, they get this for free.

2. Any business person who can expense this cost will get it. I'm thinking executives and such. It will be a reasonable and justifiable business expense.

3. That leaves every one else. Folks like me, who won't expense it and don't have home delivery. $22.59 a month? I'd probably see how far I can take that 10 free items and whether I'd even miss the Globe after reading my CBC, Toronto Star, etc.

This is why Pandora's box is so damn impossible to close.

October 23, 2012 @ 11:44 AM

CQ

I re-posted about this issue nearly a year ago.
Everyone seemingly using lame standardized Google Ad frames - which get quickly bypassed - is stupid. So are animated ads online (refer to Homer Simpson's bullcrap webpage).

October 23, 2012 @ 12:11 PM

Lorne

Nope, I wouldn't pay for it, and it's stupid for them to charge. Say someone comes to read an article, and hits a paywall:

1) They don't want to pay, and leave.
2) They do want to pay, but were looking for a quick fix. Spending 15+ minutes creating an account, confirming it, getting out CC, paying for it, confirming that payment, etc... too much effort. Bye.
3) Some people will still pay, but not the price that's being asked. Gone.
4) Some people will pay that price, but are already paying for access to BBC, or CBC, or NYT, or any other of a billion quality papers. Not worth paying for another.

The absolute worst effect will be the huge drop in readership that they pick up from their archive. What's the term for this-- someone comes for one thing, notices other things, sticks around. Some marketing term.

Say there's a blog discussion about Topic X. I happen to remember a neat article in the G&M a year ago that talked about it. I post a comment saying "hey, remember this" and include a hyperlink to the old article.

Before, a large number of fresh blood hits the archive. Some people notice the sidebar with current headlines, and click through. They read the paper, make ad impressions, etc, etc. New and possibly loyal readers. Not a lot-- but some. It keeps the flow of the website going.

Now, with the paywall-- all those hyperlinks are now effectively dead. Someone trying to follow those links hit a paywall. There were a only few number of conversions before, now that number is just a fraction of its former self, since virtually no one will be converted to a paying member. Eventually, people just stop linking to G&M all together, because they can't share the article. Traffic to the site drops horrible. There are no new members paying into the system to replace the early adapters who have given up.

There's plenty of ways to make money from a news website without a paywall. Ad impressions are one (though, as Mike says, not much $). Or, charge for features and privileges. For example, early access to articles. Members get access to them, say, an hour earlier. (Except, perhaps, for breaking news). Or members also get to provide input-- voting on which features / topics are more popular. Or they get access to high-res photos and videos. Or they get a special "news alert" system. etc, etc, etc.

October 23, 2012 @ 12:21 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

A friend was going to sign up for the 99 cent trial but found out it converts to $19.99/month automatically. That would stop me from giving it a whirl.

October 23, 2012 @ 12:53 PM

Chris

re: Sharing articles - I believe that the Globe has stated that links shared through social media will remain free and not count towards the casual user's 10 articles/month. I don't know what all they count as "social media" aside from the obvious ones, but at least that's something.

October 23, 2012 @ 1:03 PM

Chris

re: Sharing articles - I believe that the Globe has stated that links shared through social media will remain free and not count towards the casual user's 10 articles/month. I don't know what all they count as "social media" aside from the obvious ones, but at least that's something.

October 23, 2012 @ 1:07 PM

McNulty

I can't think of a single site that I would pay $20 a month for. If I want news I have CBC, CNN, several radio stations and even Fox News. Why would I pay for the Globe? What content would they offer that no one else could?

Good luck to them.

October 23, 2012 @ 2:28 PM

Douglas

@McNulty - you have some balance in your listed news sources. Fox News balances off CNN. Perhaps SunNewsNetwork vs. the CBC?

October 23, 2012 @ 5:57 PM

Justorbs

The Globe is my newspaper of choice in the morning, although they are not my favourite paper. I like the Post by far the best, but I don't like their website, so I end up reading the Globe every morning. I read the post throughout the day on my ipod and phone.

When I heard a paywall was going up a few months ago I intended to pay for it, but $270 a year is definitely too costly. I'll just have to revert to reading the Post in the morning instead, and save my 10 articles a month for the Globe.

October 23, 2012 @ 6:55 PM

Irvine

As I posted elsewhere they should create an app that lets u download the entire newspaper with advertisements

Then give it away

October 23, 2012 @ 6:58 PM

Cheryl

No, I wouldn't pay. I read the Star anyway and it's free. Why should I read something I have to pay for. It's crazy.

October 23, 2012 @ 7:32 PM

Rick C in Oakville

There is a reason the Stalinist Star is free. How would they get the daily Rob Ford bash out to the masses LOL. I pay for home delivery of the Globe, I feel it is balanced, and Marcus Gee writing about local issues doesn't get too personal, AKA Suzanne Levy, and some of the Star writers.

October 23, 2012 @ 8:41 PM

James Hamilton

I also feel bad for the newspapers but they have gone out of their way to put themselves out of business. Free newspapers like Metro and 24 Hours have much of the exact same stories as the paid versions of the Star and the Sun. I cannot walk from Union Station to Queen Street without picking up free copies of the National Post, Star and the Sun (sometimes I get all three). I only read free news now and I used to buy a paper every day! Why should I pay for the online version when I can get the actual newspaper for free?

Plus covering many of the same events as the big guys I am tired of their stuck up attitude that they are the pros and everyone else - like blogTO, Torontoist or whatever, are from 'flickr'.

October 23, 2012 @ 9:30 PM

Blind Dave

I read the mobile version of the Globe on my android phone and so far the main articles are still free. I do have to agree with Mike that good journalism is worth a few bucks, but I'm so tainted and spoiled by free internet services that I'd never pay again. My internet and cable bill is $118/month. That's quite enough, thank you.

October 23, 2012 @ 10:30 PM

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