Wednesday, 10 April 2013

My Experience with Paywalls

Back in March 2011, I wrote two blog posts about the New York Times wanting to introduce a Paywall (if you don't know what a Paywall is, click on the link of the NY Times story) and whether if you paid for content, did you then know it was true?

I will admit, I was a bit of a skeptic.  If you can get all the news you want for free and if you've got Apps like Flipboard or Zite, why would you go out of your way to pay for digital news content?  About two years later, I've realized the answer: you pay for quality.

A little over a month ago, I subscribed to the Wall Street Journal.  Not the print edition which I occasionally used to get free copies of delivered to my doorstep (and which I never went through) but the digital edition which allowed me access the Wall Street Journal's content via it's website, iPhone / Android App and iPad App.  The Wall Street Journal has come great content and often times I'd find certain stories were only available to subscribers and one day I gave in to the temptation and put myself down for a trial subscription.

Nothing is ever free and even though the offer from the Wall Street Journal offered some freebies, it still meant I had to give them my credit card details and pay for their minimum period digital subscription.  The first time I tried this, the transaction didn't go through.  I tried a second and a third time till I was lucky the fourth time around.  The only thing I didn't realize the fourth time was that I subscribed to a one year subscription.  I was still unsure what to do but a few days into it, I realized, this subscription was one of the best investments I've made for a very long time.

Apart from the news stories, they've got some good video content on there which is great when you don't want to read through an entire news story or want some extra analysis.  The iPad and iPhone Apps aren't the best to use but with the newsletters you get from the Journal, you're flooded with more content than you can imagine.

Then yesterday, after a brief coffee with Narain Jashanmal of Jashanmal Bookstores, I started talking about my paywall experience and he brought up the topic of the New York Times paywall and how this had done well for the newspaper publisher.  I then found myself subscribing to this as well last night (though I made sure to sign up for a four-week plan this time around).  It is only when I came to writing this post, I realized I went full circle on the issue of the New York Times Paywall.

As an outlay, I've found paywalls will cost you about USD 200-250 per year.  This may be a difficult pill to swallow for those of us who are used to getting newspapers for close to nothing in UAE given the fact that most newspapers give you back discount vouchers or free gifts with your subscription but it is an investment you'll appreciate.

I know I end up sharing a lot of the content I've read on the Wall Street Journal on platforms like Twitter or Facebook but more importantly, I've shared a lot of this content with my colleagues in the office as well.  My online reading habits may have changed slightly but given that you have so many places you could find content, it's always easier to have it formatted in a format you're used to.  With the Wall Street Journal (and maybe in future the New York Times), the same has become something that I've gotten used to and yes, I do believe there is a future for Paywalls.