Tag Archives: paywalls

No more paywall at the Journal de Montréal

“Autre nouvelle importante”, it starts, burying the lead a bit: The Journal de Montréal announced on Wednesday that all content on its website will now be free. Ditto for the Journal de Québec. No more paywall on either site.

The Quebecor-owned paid newspapers instituted their paywalls in 2012, putting some content behind it but leaving other content free. At the time, the purpose of the paywall was to protect the print edition’s subscription fees.

So what’s changed? La Presse asked, and the answer is basically that their priorities have changed: with the rise of social media, reach has become more important, and a paywall is a hindrance to that.

So the Journal falls back onto advertising as the primary source of digital revenue, even though digital advertising hasn’t exactly taken off. It’s in that line that it signed up for Facebook’s Instant Articles, which allows JdeM stories to be read directly in people’s Facebook feeds. Publishers can include ads in the feeds, which is supposed to be a way to increase revenue.

Other Canadian launch partners for Instant Articles are Chatelaine, Diply, The Huffington Post Canada, Maclean’s, Sportsnet, The Canadian Press and TVA Nouvelles, plus some international media like BuzzFeed.

The Journal de Montréal’s decision isn’t that surprising considering the context. Its competitors in francophone news, including La Presse, Radio-Canada, RDS, TVA Nouvelles, Métro and others don’t have paywalls. Le Devoir is the only major francophone publication that still has one up, and it’s not searching for as many hits as possible.

On the English side, we’ve seen the Toronto Star drop its paywall, but The Globe and Mail and Postmedia (my employer) still have them, porous as they may be. And they put them up after concluding it was a mistake to have content online free in the first place. Will they follow suit in determining it was a mistake to consider that a mistake?

The decision would be much easier if online advertising was a viable revenue source.

Meanwhile, this decision means the Journal de Montréal and Journal de Québec will be even more eager for as many clicks (or taps or whatever) as possible. There’s a huge incentive for clickbait, so don’t be surprised if it increases.

Le Devoir replaces its paywall with a meter as it struggles financially

As Canadian newspapers have gone back and forth over the idea of charging online readers directly for access to content, trying to find that sweet spot between encouraging them to subscribe to read high-quality reporting and getting as much ad revenue as possible through traffic to popular stories, one newspaper’s strategy has stayed the same for the past decade.

Until now.

As it made its yearly announcement of its financial situation to the public recently, Le Devoir announced that it is opening up holes in its paywall. What was previously a hard paywall that restricted access to most of its exclusive content to paid subscribers has now become a metered system similar to what most paid newspapers (including my employer’s) have adopted.

People without subscriptions will now be able to access 10 paid articles per month before the paywall comes down. (And, of course, as with any metered paywall, there are many ways around that restriction.)

This news is good for those of us who follow just one particular subject. And it might help improve their ad revenue situation slightly. But Le Devoir is facing the same troubles as other major newspapers. And as this analysis shows, the numbers are getting worse.

Gazette begins charging for website access

Pop-up box that comes up when you hit the Gazette's metered paywall

Publisher Alan Allnutt announced in Wednesday’s paper that The Gazette is moving back to a paid model for its website.

Based on a similar move by the New York Times earlier this year, montrealgazette.com will have a metered paywall, which allows a certain number of free articles a month and then charges for access beyond that. The model is designed to get heavy users to pay for content while not discouraging occasional readers who might reach an article through a Google search or a blog link.

The system, which is managed by Press+ and expected to be running by the end of the day, will allow 20 free articles a month, then charge $6.95 a month (or $69.95 a year) for access. This compares to $26.19/month for six-day print delivery or $9.95/month for the Digital Edition.

Print subscribers will, once they register, have unlimited access to online content.

The meter will only apply to “premium” content from The Gazette and Postmedia News, including photo galleries and videos. “Major” breaking news stories, blogs and content on affiliated websites like Hockey Inside/Out and West Island Gazette Plus won’t be subject to the meter. It’s unclear whether other wire copy (Reuters, AFP, etc.) will apply. Wire stories, including those from Postmedia News, Reuters and Agence France-Presse, will count toward the meter, even though many of those are freely available elsewhere.

Users of the iPad app will not be metered. Nor will mobile users.

“A great deal has been written about the economics of publishing newspapers in 2011,” Allnutt writes. “The ‘old’ model – selling newsprint products very cheaply to readers and selling the audience to advertisers for the majority of income – is increasingly challenged. Simply transferring advertisers from print to online may not work for all. In order to continue our investment in the quality and depth of our award-winning journalism and offer you the features and functions you want from our website, we believe we have to find new sources of revenue.”

Once upon a time, The Gazette used to charge for online access, under a model similar to what Le Devoir uses today: Some articles free, but most completely locked down behind a paywall, with only the first paragraph available to non-subscribers. Like the Times, The Gazette abandoned this model with the hope that increased advertising revenue would be more profitable than the subscriber revenue that comes out of the paywall.

The big question, of course, is whether or not this will work. The Times got 100,000 subscribers in its first month (most of those at 99 cents for four weeks), but its model isn’t universally loved, and it has been criticized as being too loose and having too many loopholes. More importantly, there are still plenty of free sources of local, national and international news online, so paid sites need a significant amount of original content that can’t be found elsewhere. People aren’t going to pay for stories about highway crashes, politics and press releases they can get from six different sources.

There’s also the added difficulty that, as part of the Postmedia Network, The Gazette shares content with websites of other newspapers, and those newspapers share content with it. Charging for a Gazette article will be pointless if it can be found unmetered on ottawacitizen.com. The Victoria Times-Colonist is also moving to a metered system (one that charges print subscribers as well), but other Postmedia websites are not. Postmedia is waiting to see how The Gazette and the Times-Colonist fare.

Of course, as much as I’m a fan of an open Internet and getting things for free, being a Gazette employee I stand to benefit indirectly if this results in a lot of new revenue. So subscribe away!

A page of frequently asked questions has been posted, and subscriptions are being taken.

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