Paywalls go up but answers elusive

|| November 21, 2013

Mention "paywall" to newspaper executives and you'll get a bit of everything: optimism, frustration, reluctance and perhaps fear.

John Paton, a major player in the US newspaper market, probably thinks frustration given his announcement that online readers will have to start paying to read his 75 newspapers.

Paton says: "Let's be clear, paid digital subscriptions are not a long-term strategy. They don't transform anything; they tweak. At best, they are a short-term tactic".

They're strong words from Paton and they have received a mixed reaction from industry experts.

But there is one thing that Paton has right: no one knows the long-term effect of digital subscriptions. The circulation of printed papers, the major revenue driver for newspaper companies, is falling by at least 10 per cent a year in Australia so digital subscriptions make sense for now.

News Corp's strategy head has made some frank admissions that touch on the paywall woes

There is no guarantee that paywalls will support the massive cost base of newsrooms in years to come. And that's when the test would come for readers - would they pay more for less?