Irish News withdraws from the conversation…

Ironic that the Irish News have largely closed (breaking news and some of the top stories retain free access) their subscription wall against the hordes of freebie online readers just the day after this excellent piece in the Media Guardian by Richard Wray. He notes that Murdoch has rolled back on his decision to open up WSJ.com to all comers, and may be putting the lid back on some of the comment sites, whilst using the blogs to keep up its mass readership. Yet the subs blocked sites had “over a million subscribers and a global role as the voice of American capitalism, WSJ.com makes over $50m in revenues a year, far more than its rivals.”The subscriptions, it seems, is part of the key to generating much of the big revenues. But it’s not so rewarding for everyone. Wray also notes that “WSJ.com and the smaller FT.com, are the only subscription-based news sites among the top 70 visited by UK internet users.” He goes on to quote Alex Burmaster, European internet analyst at Nielsen Online.:

“The sheer variety of freely available content online and the power of search engines have always been mighty foes against the subscription model. Whilst charging subscriptions has remained viable for some providers of niche content, most publishers have been forced to move away from this model and look to maximising audiences as the major weapon in the battle for revenue.”

Wray notes that FT.com has seen a rocketing of its traffic since it put its news output in front of the subscription wall:

Bob Ivins, managing director of online metrics firm Comscore Europe, says the effect was to increase traffic by 30% to 40% over the next two months on FT.com. “It’s a ratchet effect, now they are on a higher plateau.” According to Comscore’s data, total unique UK visitors to the FT.com site have increased from 329,000 in September to 464,000 in December.

There are still higher value items that are kept behind the FT.com wall, not least because in capturing the detailed demographics of its readership, it can charge higher premiums for its online advertising. But, according to FT.com’s publisher and managing editor Ien Cheng, the FT wants to remove barriers. “In the past,” says Cheng, “we have taken ourselves out of the web conversation by having a hard subscription barrier.”

And that’s the key. I retain subscriptions to both the Irish News and the Irish Times, and will continue the stuff from both places that appears the following day courtesy of Newshound. But effectively it is taking some excellent journalism out of the loop for most people. Let’s hope they come back to re-consider this issue sooner rather than later.

  • Hogan

    Maybe the ‘free taster’ was a last kick tactic at boosting the revenues before reality hits?

    Let’s hope so.

  • Here’s a new one to me: “The Megacloud Business

    But the Gartner research vice-president, Andrew Frank, predicted that Google would remain market leader even if the Microsoft takeover of Yahoo – which would create a mass of online services known as a megacloud – went through.

  • Subs for one day are £3 which translates as 5 times the cover price of the newspaper (presuming the price is still 60p). A week at £6 is a £1 an issue.

  • Joe

    While I enjoyed the freebies, it reminded me why I let my own subscription lapse – the absolutely dreadful subbing! Most of the stories are littered with rogue hy- phens and strange

    three- to six-word pa- ragraphs

    making many stories

    read like the world’s worst haiku.

    I’m guessing the whole mess is down to something weird like the text getting copied and pasted straight from the InDesign or Quark layouts, and nobody having the wit to strip out extraneous hard returns, punctuation etc. It’s a small thing but the overall effect is to make the site look like an online P7 class newsletter. If you’re going to expect people to pay to read something, the least you can do is take five minutes to clean up the copy and generally make sure it doesn’t look like it was created by a sub-literate petrol-huffer.

    And I wonder who came to the conclusion that a big bar of byline pictures and ads down the MIDDLE of the page was a good idea? And how?

    (Of course, none of this was a problem when the print edition was widely available in London newsagents – but the IN stopped that about five or six years ago, presumably to push up subs to the online version. So instead of getting 300 quid or thereabouts from me every year, they’re getting nothing. Nice work there, fellas.)

  • Mick Fealty

    Just got this informational note from the Irish News editor, Noel Doran:

    “Our re-launched website has been very favourably
    received by users in terms of content, design and
    navigation, and we hope that it will also attract
    a positive commercial response. As all the
    Belfast-based titles have found online
    advertising to be a challenging market, the Irish
    News continues to view a subscription policy as necessary.

    “The £3 daily online rate offers full access to
    our archives, in addition to our normal material,
    and is not really comparable to the 60p cover
    charge for the print edition. However, the £65
    annual rate represents a considerable overall
    saving on the daily purchase of the paper.

    “Finally, the dropping of our London distribution
    was forced when, much to our regret, the
    chartered early morning flight we previously used
    became unavailable. This development deprived us
    of a long-established and valuable presence in
    London, and had no connection with the promotion of our online edition.”