This month The New York Times reported subscription revenue at more than one billion dollars for 2017, accounting for 60 percent of the year’s total earnings. CEO Mark Thompson said on his February earnings call: “There are clear signs that our ‘subscription-first business model’ is proving to be an effective way to support broad journalistic ambitions.”
Away from newspaper side of the business, digital publishing pioneer Wired has decided that even if information wants to be free, it’s going to start charging. Seeing a “direct monetary relationship” with readers as a route to a “stable financial future,” Wired editor Nick Thomson announced a metered paywall with a $20 annual subscription. “It is my strong sense that paywalls are an essential part of the future of journalism,” said Thomson in an interview with Nieman Lab.
In the search for alternative income streams, readers are an obvious answer to publishing’s revenue question. But why are readers buying it now? Why, after almost 30 years of free digital content are millions of them finally ponying up?
The biggest driver is quality — or the general lack of it. There is just so much bad content out there that it’s finally worth paying to cut the crap.
While not guaranteed safe spaces, the quality of discourse behind a paywall is also typically more civilised — trolls don’t pay.