Roy Greenslade asks “where’s the proof of paywall success?“.
“What we have yet to know is whether paywalls work. Even magazines that have erected them for a good while are either unsure about the results or, more usually, secretive about them. Similarly, News International isn’t revealing figures for its subscriptions take-up.”
One might equally ask which, if any, magazine or newspaper publishers are making a success of the advertiser funded-only models? Where’s the proof of the success of advertiser-funded publishing for big companies?
As far as I’m aware, The Guardian (for one) is losing money on its online properties. Clearly, The Times was – otherwise there’s no chance it would have retreated behind a paywall. Magazine publishers seem pretty reluctant to talk either way, and certainly not in detail.
In other words, one could equally argue that for both magazine and newspaper publishers, the “everything is free” model has failed.
However, I wouldn’t argue that. What I would argue is that different business models will prove successful for different audiences, and it’s up to publishers to find the path which works for their individual publications. There is no One True Path to success.
But, really, it’s myopic to think there ever has been. There have always been print publications which charged a high amount to readers, but carried no ads. Likewise, freesheets which subsist solely on advertising are as old as the hills.
So why are we pretending that the online world will be different?
From Google to Add Social-Network Elements – WSJ.com:
“The best thing that would happen is for Facebook to open up its data,” Mr. Schmidt said. “Failing that, there are other ways to get that information.” He declined to be specific.
I think Eric meant to say “the best thing that would happen for us is for Facebook to open up its data.” Because it certainly wouldn’t be the best thing for Facebook.
And that “failing that…” sounds like an interesting threat to me, and suggests more clearly than ever that Google is determined to crack open Facebook for its own benefit.