How newspaper paywalls succeed

It is early days for newspaper paywalls. The experience so far says successful paywalls have four things in common.

Paywalls work for business newspapers like The National Business Review (NBR), The Australian Financial Review and The Financial Times.

Commentators often say paywalls and subscriptions work for niche titles providing specialist coverage and editorial quality.

This is true. For example, I work for CommsDay, which is a successful specialist niche title covering the telecommunications market. CommsDay doesn’t use a paywall – it is a daily PDF newsletter.

There’s more to getting readers to pay than occupying a specialist niche.

I’ve identified three other must haves:

  • Quality. The above titles are editorially excellent and professional. They are the best in their field.
  • Well-heeled audience. People who buy online subscriptions are richer than average readers. Business people often have personal or company-wide budgets for buying media.
  • Quick. Paywalls work when readers need information fast. They have to find it more convenient to whip out the credit card and pay for a subscription than walk to the local shop and buy a print copy of the publication or spend 30 minutes Googling for information.