In July New Zealand’s National Business Review (NBR) decided to jump the curve and put all its content behind a paywall – the same thing that people like Rupert Murdoch and other news media moguls are recommending.
NBR it seems was betting on the idea that their content was unique enough that people would be willing to pay for access to the content. Well at least enough people that would make up for the drop in readership that they were expecting by the move. When it was happening New Zealand blogger Lance Wiggs wrote about it on his blog where he said
This is an indication that the NBR leaders don’t really understand the current news internet business model. The aggregators, such as google news, are driving traffic to the NBR site, and without them the NBR would be even worse of than it is. By locking them out of the subscription area NBR will dramatically reduce their ability to make their compelling, orginal and timely content available to the world. The writers behind the wall will lose relevance, and the newspaper itself will diminish.
Yesterday Lance posted another follow-up to his original posts that takes a look at how successful, or not, this move behind a paywall has been for NBR. The short of it as you can see in the graph is that this has definitely turned out to be not such a good idea.
NBR’s page impressions have clearly declined since the wall was erected, and we can expect that this was expected by them. It’s surprising to me that Interest.co.nz had not performed better versus NBR though:
Here are all of their key traffic statistics measures gathered into one chart. and all indexed from April 6 as above:
It’s not hard to tell that NBR definitely took a hit from the move to a paywall model and in most cases it doesn’t show any signs of abating. Sure NBR might be a ‘local’ news organization that some will say shouldn’t be used to forecast what might happen to big ‘global’ newspapers like The New York Times or other big brand papers. The problem is that NBR, much like the Wall Street Journal, is a specialized news publication and as such it should be able to sustain, or even grow, its revenue based on the fact tha tit is a unique provider in contrast to its competitors.
Yet we can see that its numbers are floundering and if it can happen to a niche paper like NBR how can people like Murdoch expect that the same thing won’t happen to their news properties that report the same news as their competitors who aren’t going behind a paywall?
Brand names in news – like The New York Times or Washington Post – may at one time been able to cash in on their brand recognition factor but that was before literally anyone could have the same type of recognition.
It’s a changing world out there in newspaper land where looking to the future doesn’t mean falling back on the past thinking it’ll save your ass – because it won’t.