OPA Intelligence Reports

Posted in News on 12/03/2012 By Mark Glaser & Courtney Lowery Cowgill

The great pay wall debate continues

To charge or not to charge, that is the question. But more often lately, publishers are turning to metered pay walls to bring in more digital revenues. Crain’s New York erected a metered wall, and the Lexington Herald-Leader is planning to do the same. The Houston Chronicle mirrored the approach of the Boston Globe by launching a HTML5 site as subscription-only with a companion free site, Chron.com. Newsweek will print its last print edition on Dec. 31, 2012, and will require a subscription for its website. Newsweek and Daily Beast editor Tina Brown told New York magazine: “We’re looking very strongly now at this metered-access model…when you charge for every fourth or fifth piece that you get.”

But not everyone is getting on the pay wall bandwagon. USA Today says there are no pay walls in its future. And the Washington Post continues to stay mum on any pay wall plans, as nearly everyone seems to have an opinion about what it should do. Dean Starkman of Columbia Journalism Review says the paper needs a pay wall and now.  “Digital ads are fine, but alone they are not enough when there is a honkingly obvious supplementary source of revenue available,” he writes. “The benefits of adding a pay wall are becoming more apparent by the day even as fears of a downside are receding.” GigaOm’s Matthew Ingram doesn’t agree: “I’ve tried to make the case before that pay walls are a sandbag strategy—one that can help keep the rising waters (in this case, the ongoing rapid decline in print advertising revenue) at bay, but not much else.” And PandoDaily’s Sarah Lacy sees it this way: “Unlike a lot of newspapers, the Post is trying to do something innovative, rather than just take the easy out of throwing up a pay wall.”