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While many publishers in the West struggle to build profitable paywalls, I recently reported that a paywall in the East may provide a blueprint for success.
That paywall was erected in Slovakia by a company called Piano Media. It brought together nine of Slovakia's largest news publishers, and the early results are impressive given the size and characteristics of the Slovakian market.
Ask many consumers why they've stopped purchasing dead tree publications like newspapers, and chances are you'll hear comments like "the cost is too high."
Ask those same consumers what they expect when it comes to the digital/tablet versions of their newspapers of choice, and you'll probably learn that they expect the cost to be lower. And for good reason: there's no paper and ink to buy; the marginal cost of selling an issue of a newspaper on an iPad is pretty close to $0.
Despite the fact that many publishers have struggled to transform ad-supported content into profit, many publishers have opted to keep the ad-supported content, and forgo a paywall.
And there's a good reason why: it's entirely unclear to many publishers whether a paywall will be profitable or not, and once a paywall goes up, a publisher's audience will almost certainly drop. For many publishers, ad-supported content and a large audience is still more attractive than paid content and a smaller audience.
Rupert Murdoch's News International may still have a long way to go in convincing the world that it can succeed by putting its newspaper websites behind a paywall, but that doesn't mean that News International isn't confident that it will eventually succeed with the paywall model.
In a sign of its confidence, it is putting the website of the UK's top-selling Sunday newspaper, News of the World, behind the News International paywall in October.
A massive WTF moment interrupted my reading of The Observer's review of the paywall going up around the Times and Sunday Times.
Rolling Stone is making headlines today for relauching its website with complete access to its 43 year magazine archive — for a price. The music magazine has added all sorts of features online and plans to charge $3.99 a month for access.
This is all part of founder Jann Wenner's plan to protect magazine content from being cannibalized online. However, there's one group left out of this new plan — Rolling Stone's print subscribers. They'll have to pony up for a monthly online subscription if they want to access the new content.
By just about any reasonable measure, The Economist is doing pretty darn well for a magazine. As the print world frequently looks to be in a state of perpetual implosion, The Economist stands out as one of the print publications that's not only surviving, but thriving.
While struggling print publications like The New York Times mull a paid content strategy from a position of desperation, The Economist is going paid from a position of strength.
Much has been said about newspapers looking more fondly at the possibility adding a paywall to their precious content so 'bloggers stop stealing it' and Google 'stops being a vampire'.
Almost all of the arguments centre around what the business side of this decision is. While that is important, the reaction of the public matters much more.