The New Statesman is an iconic British magazine focusing on an intricate blend of politics and culture, albeit with a liberal, sceptical stance. Founded over 100 years ago, the title is a print-digital hybrid and whilst its circulation peaked in the mid-Sixties, it has witnessed a recent resurgence under the stewardship of editor Jason Cowley. The magazine had a certified average circulation of 34,025 in 2016, a 35-year high, whilst traffic to the magazine’s website reached a record high in June of the same year, with 27 million page views and four million unique users.
Given the title’s success with unlimited free digital access, it came as a surprise when in March of this year it launched a metered paywall. As its editor, Jason Cowley explained at the time, “Great writing isn’t cheap, and we don’t want to rely on advertisers alone. While we’re happy for you to continue to read some of our content for free, we’re asking those who get the most out of the New Statesman online to contribute to our journalism.”
In this episode from the Media Voices gang, New Statesman’s digital editor Jasper Jackson talks about the circumstances that led the popular current affairs magazine to launch a paywall, how the team decided on digital-only extras to lure potential subscribers across, and what the widespread adoption of paywalls says about the state of the news media:
- Why now? “Pure reach is a wonderful drug and whilst digital advertising can bring in substantial revenue….there isn’t enough to fund our level and quality of journalism.”
- The paywall and digital advertising work hand in hand with each other – the paywall wasn’t introduced to replace digital advertising.
- The New Statesman charges the same for its print and digital subscriptions although it throws in some added benefits for digital readers, such as specialist content, early access to events, etc.
- A metered paywall, rather than a hard paywall, makes the title generally more accessible and broadens its reach.
- In order to access good journalism, readers have to be willing to pay.
- A strong, differentiated, high-value publishing brand is essential for a paywall to work.
NB: Media Voices is taking to the road and, on Sept 21st, the gang can be found in the heart of Edinburgh where they will be recording a live show and presenting a podcasting masterclass at PPA’s Magfest.