UK Newspaper Drops Paywall After Less Than 10 People Subscribe

from the disasters dept

As Rupert Murdoch moves forward with his plans to put in place a paywall for the online sites of some of his UK newspapers, he may want to look around carefully. Jeff Sonderman points us to the news of a UK newspaper publisher that put in place a paywall of £5 for three months of access to its newspaper websites late last year -- only to find that the paywall has been quietly dropped after less than ten people signed up at one of the papers:
A source at one of the titles involved in the trial said it had been a "disaster" and that the number of people subscribing had been in single figures.
This fits with Newsday's experiment, where only 35 non-Cablevision subscribers were willing to sign up. Newspapers keep over-estimating the willingness of people to pay to read websites.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Apr 1st, 2010 @ 8:16am

    Heh, this is lovely:

    In a parellel experiment, some other titles, including the Worksop Guardian in Nottinghamshire, stopped uploading full stories to their websites and told readers to buy the paper instead. This aspect of the trial still appears to be ongoing.

    It's true too. What a great plan.

     

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  2.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Apr 1st, 2010 @ 8:36am

    yeah

    it's okay. Newspapers don't like customer service. How do they learn? an uppercut to the checkbook, apparently.

     

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  3.  
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    DH's love child, Apr 1st, 2010 @ 8:45am

    One of these days they MIGHT learn...

    My hometown newspaper (other side of the country from where I live) recently put up a paywall. They are using the same flawed logic - subscribers to the local paper get free access. I don't know what the numbers are, but instead of reading it every day like I used to, I only look about once a week, since I can't read more than headlines anyway. Wehn I actually want news from that region, I either go to one of the local radio's site or I read the paper from the next town over which will cover the important stuff anyway. It's stupid of these folks to try to stuff the genie in the bottle like that. *sigh*

     

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  4.  
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    Ryan, Apr 1st, 2010 @ 9:02am

    Re: One of these days they MIGHT learn...

    It's stupid of these folks to try to stuff the genie in the bottle like that. *sigh*

    That's what she said.

     

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  5.  
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    Ben Robinson (profile), Apr 1st, 2010 @ 9:02am

    Very small papers

    Bear in mind these are tiny tiny papers serving tiny comunities of readers. They contain minor local interest news stories and not any kind of news interesting to anyone under the age of 60 or that has a job or any kind of real life.

    That said i think the Times paywall is going to be a disaster.

     

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  6.  
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    Robert Ring (profile), Apr 1st, 2010 @ 9:12am

    "If we could just get one percent of readers to pay ... !"

    So much for that idea.

     

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  7.  
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    Flakey, Apr 1st, 2010 @ 9:23am

    We gotta be paid

    The whole sense of entitlement is whackeyed and is largely demonstrated as a disaster by the entertainment groups as a whole that are playing copyguard.

    Just because you have a product, does not entitle you to guaranteed income, it doesn't matter if that product is food, music, nor news. You have to give the user of your product some reason to select it over the competition, especially if you are going to look at selling.

    If you fail to deliver on this reason, expect to fail at selling and profit. This has been the whole message that Techdirt has been trying to put out to the public and the one that is most often ignored because it isn't what those selling want to hear. That *gasp* they may have to work at it instead of just putting it out to tell folks why it's better than the rest of the competition that either costs less or nothing at all.

    I don't know about you but I'm willing to pay for quality. I am not willing to pay as much for less value than something else I see as worth more. News is not on a high category with me in the sense that I will pay very much for it when there are tons of sites out there I can pick it up for free at and the majority seem to be of the same quality as the pay-for sites. This comes back to the news rewriting that most news sites do and then think they are entitled to payment because they reworded the news. To me, that didn't add enough value to the quality to make it worth it.

    The response to paywalls tells me I'm not alone in this perceived value.

     

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  8.  
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    Mr Fnortner (profile), Apr 1st, 2010 @ 9:29am

    Sometimes works, sometimes

    Consumer Reports magazine charges its subscribers for the same information online that they put in the mag. I think there may be additional info too, but I don't know since I won't pay. They seem to be happy with their arrangement, but I can't say whether they make any money at it. It seems foolish to me. I'd rather pay $2 more per year for the mag (if they'd charge everybody) and have bonus online access.

     

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  9.  
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    DH's love child, Apr 1st, 2010 @ 9:52am

    Re: We gotta be paid

    It's business 101. I have a whole bunch of sh!t in my house that I would love to get paid for, but I'm pretty sure nobody wants to buy it. These idiots also WAY overprice the product.
    Ah, well.. they don't care about me, so they don't even know I'm NOT buying what they're shoveling out.

     

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  10.  
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    dwind (profile), Apr 1st, 2010 @ 10:12am

    Rupert needs

    to take Mendelsome to dinner and have some lively entertainment and a few camera.
    I propose increasing the fees isp charge to customers so all papers, music, video and everyone else that takes him to dinner gets a cut.

     

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  11.  
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    Comboman (profile), Apr 1st, 2010 @ 10:37am

    Re: Sometimes works, sometimes

    Consumer Reports is a bit of a special case. To ensure the impartiality of their reviews they don't accept advertising in either their magazine or their web site. I subscribed for a couple years when I was first married and making a lot of big purchases (major appliances and such) and it was worth the money. There are lots of free review sites like ePinions, but they can be gamed by astroturfing manufacturers and retailers, and even legitimate user reviews are often useless ("I'm too stupid to read the manual, therefore there must be a problem with the product."). With CR, you're not really paying for content so much as you are paying for trusted, unbiased expertise.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2010 @ 10:49am

    Re:

    Do they think people will run out and buy their newspaper, instead of google the news from another source? You really have to wonder how some of these people get into administrative positions in the first place...

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2010 @ 11:46am

    Re: Re:

     

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  14.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 1st, 2010 @ 1:04pm

    Re: yeah

    "an uppercut to the checkbook"

    That wont help either, they will just go out and rationalize that this "next" thing (iPad in this case) will save them. Rupert Murdoch and the other media distribution types think that there is a solution when there isnt.

    Here is the source of all the problems for media distribution companies ...

    Infinite sources of competition, some of which falls across different media types (TV, radio, internet, etc), reduces the available pool of consumers for any given source to something approaching zero. This over time reduces the profitability of these legacy media distributors to a number that approaches zero. While there is no such thing as an infinite number of sources, we are at the point where the number of news sources has reached a level that has partially saturated the news market. This trend will continue into the future so that even free news paper will begin to see a decline.

    JMHO

    David

     

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  15.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 1st, 2010 @ 1:08pm

    Re:

    "So much for that idea."

    If they only had 1,000 customers to begin with then they met their goal ... ;)

     

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  16.  
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    Dementia (profile), Apr 1st, 2010 @ 1:13pm

    Re: Very small papers

    While I certainly wouldn't label the Eau Claire Leader/Telegram (http://www.leadertelegram.com/) a large paper, several months ago I went to their site only to find a paywall. Guess how many times, I've been back since.

     

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  17.  
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    Bradley Stewart, Apr 1st, 2010 @ 2:09pm

    I'm Sorry For The Workers

    at these papers but I hope it happens to Murdoch. What a really horrible human being. He gives new flavor to the word jerk.

     

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  18.  
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    Mr Big Content, Apr 1st, 2010 @ 8:21pm

    Still Doesn’t PROVE It’s A Stupid Idea

    So a paywall didn’t work for these people, doesn’t mean it won’t work for Rupert Murdoch. The difference is, he’s a smart guy, and smart guys have a way of making stupid ideas work. Look at Steve Jobs.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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