A little good news: The NYT paywall is working

The New York Times’ paywall, which requires readers to subscribe to the site if they read more than 20 stories per month, is exceeding expectations and bringing in significant revenue for the company, writes Felix Salmon for Reuters. Salmon, who made a public bet that the paywall would disappear before its second birthday, is still not a fan of how it works (as a subscriber, he finds the constant sign-in requests aggravating). But, implementation glitches aside, the numbers speak to the model’s robustness: after four months, the Times site has about 400,000 paying readers.

Salmon wasn’t alone in his skepticism about the model. When the Times unveiled the paywall, articles abounded about the many reasons it would fail. The most commonly cited concerns: that it was too easy for people to get around the paywall and that people have grown too used to getting online news for free. But the Times’ second-quarter results suggest those assumptions could be wrong. And this is, undoubtedly, great news for those of us who work, or will work, in online media. Salmon also points out that, as the Times introduced subscriptions, its digital ad revenues actually increased. It’s “the holy grail of paywalls,” he writes.

Granted, not all publications have the Times’ loyal and highly engaged (and well-educated and wealthy) readership that attracts advertisers and also seems willing to pay for news. But, as a start, the paywall’s early results suggest there’s money to be made in online news after all, if we have a little patience.

Posted on July 26, 2011 at 11:03 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

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