Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Over the paywall?

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  • Sacha,

    the eyeballs-and-data-capture strategy of Daily Mail and Buzzfeed

    Does that involve detailed user tracking?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    Does that involve detailed user tracking?

    Yes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    rein in its paywall plans*

    (Sorry for the grammar nitpick – the idiom relates to runaway horses, not Her Maj)

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Nik Dirga,

    I find it extremely depressing how many ostensibly serious news sites are aping the "You won't believe what happens when..." relentless click bait trivia approach of Buzzfeed. There IS a place for that sort of thing, but it devalues the brand when used without restraint.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to TracyMac,

    rein in its paywall plans*

    D'oh! Shame!

    It didn't even occur to me I'd typed that :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Nik Dirga,

    I find it extremely depressing how many ostensibly serious news sites are aping the “You won’t believe what happens when…"

    It is depressing. And it’s turned on itself, to the point where ‘you won’t believe what happens next!’ is translated by the brain as ‘you don’t want to waste your time on this.”

    I’ll be asking NZ On Air chief executive Jane Wrightson what the agency is taking from the results of Where are the audiences?

    Headline includes: "Music and the young are shifting fast to digital platforms." Possibly because there isn't the free-to-air music channel we once had? (Although being able to find every music vid ever made, plus many never before seen, on youtube is a biggie.)
    And maybe ask - how did ’Hope and Wire’ mange to turn into ‘Soap for Hire’ :(

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • Fooman,

    Mitchell formerly helped run the metered news paywall at Murdoch paper The Australian, which starts at $4 a week for web and app access and moves up through various print subscription bundles. The paper was an early mover but currently still has only 70,000 subscribers, which isn’t sustainable.

    I read that as a minimum of AUD$14.5 million p.a, without counting advertising income. Is that really unsustainable? Or is that a reflection of having to maintain hard copy (capital equipment, marginal costs of printing) as well as a digital presence (which I see as mostly cost of content)?

    FM

    Lower Hutt • Since Dec 2009 • 87 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Paywalls aren't working for the Australian and although it's difficult to obtain accurate figures, it doesn't seem to be working for the Times in London either. The "ten free stories a month" model operated by the Telegraph and others is very easy to bypass once you realise that it's cookie-based. ;-)

    I find it extremely depressing how many ostensibly serious news sites are aping the "You won't believe what happens when..." relentless click bait trivia approach of Buzzfeed.

    As well as the endless "Ten things you need to know about..." mashups which are scattered throughout Stuff and the Herald these days.

    I've been weaning myself off both of our major news sites in anticipation of paywalls and found there's more than enough quality international material available to satisfy my addiction to news. The Guardian, Telegraph (with session cookies), ProPublica, Der Spiegel, BBC, NY Times, etc all offer quality journalism and analysis for free.

    Of course if you crave a diet of mind-numbing trivia, annoying auto-play videos and banal user-contributed content, then maybe Stuff is for you. ;-)

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1388 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Alfie,

    As well as the endless "Ten things you need to know about..." mashups which are scattered throughout Stuff and the Herald these days.

    Junior staff are required to come up with ideas for those as part of their jobs.

    Otoh, the most compelling Twitter reports from the MH17 site over the weekend came from a Buzzfeed journalist ...

    You can see Buzzfeed's news content here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Fooman,

    I read that as a minimum of AUD$14.5 million p.a, without counting advertising income. Is that really unsustainable? Or is that a reflection of having to maintain hard copy (capital equipment, marginal costs of printing) as well as a digital presence (which I see as mostly cost of content)?

    I suspect quite a few of them were already print subscribers who have taken up the digital bundles, so the additional income isn't a lot.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Brodie Davis,

    But if they make you pay for access, don't they then have to provide quality content?

    HAHAHA sorry I couldn't help myself. This is why paywalls tend to mostly fail, unless your producing content of a high enough quality, most people won't pay for it.

    Since Aug 2008 • 54 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Brodie Davis,

    This is why paywalls tend to mostly fail, unless your producing content of a high enough quality, most people won’t pay for it.

    I know they've been very aware of this fact at the Herald. I'm not sure of where they're at with it, but Jeremy Rees told me a while ago they knew they couldn't just expect to be able to demand people pay for what they've been getting free, there had to be substantial new content.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    there had to be substantial new content

    yes, how’s that data journalism going for them? I recall Mr Currie was keen on school league tables, etc.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Grevers,

    Paywalls imply a significant vendor-lock-in. I'm in Taranaki, so the Herald misses a lot of relavant news for me, but there are times it way outperforms stuff on breaking stories. But I'm not going to pay for both. (And I'm certainly not prepared to pay for stuff based on the abysmal quality of their android app story selection).

    The biggest problem is that, more than a decade after it was mooted, we still don't have a workable micropayments system ($0.08 to read this article), and I suspect that the main reason for that is that micropayments would show up how excessive the banking system's transaction fees on non-micro payments are.

    New Plymouth • Since Jul 2011 • 143 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Has any paywall ever succeeded on non-professional content?

    (The FT and Wall St Journal have charged for their content since forever (late 80's?) but they have a large pool of people (over a million) that need to see it for their work).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    I find it extremely depressing how many ostensibly serious news sites are aping the "You won't believe what happens when..." relentless click bait trivia approach of Buzzfeed.

    This is just how the internet rolls.

    It doesn't mean that serious news doesn't get a look in - take a look at one site that understands the internet like the female orientated jezebel.com, which can weave having a "Cat Loses Valiant Battle Against Slice of Ham" video together with a serious story "Can I be friends with my rapist?"

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2213 posts Report Reply

  • kiwicmc,

    I'm a print subscriber to the Sydney Morning Herald and get access to the semi-paywalled website as part of that. I usually never bother because even though the SMH is a far superior print newspaper to the NZ Herald, its web site is a hopeless mess compared to the NZ Herald. Which as it turns out, has become my goto web site for breaking news. Strange eh?

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since May 2008 • 88 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    Praps the NZ Harold will go to pay wall once the national are safely reelected. :(

    Since Mar 2010 • 379 posts Report Reply

  • Jason Kemp,

    If the content is worth paying for I don't mind subscribing but the system has to actually work and be easy to use for both staff and readers.

    On the Herald online this morning they had the headline
    "Tobacco giant vows to find $23b award"

    and now I see it has been changed to "Tobacco giant vows to fight $23b award" but there is a big difference between those two. At times it looks like the content on the herald looks like it is on auto pilot.

    Very few stories there have any depth and that I would guess is a big challenge for daily news sites. There is almost zero analysis of stories on say the Herald. A few columns are not the same thing but those columnists rely on being widely read to have any influence so it is not a simple editorial puzzle.

    It would be very good to know how other local paywalls are working or not. The NBR has been operating that way for a while with most of their content blocked from free access and they do seem to have some exclusive stories or analysis.

    The Listener also operates a paywall. I have tried to pay for access there and the least expensive deal they can do is $5 for 5 days. Unfortunately after paying and getting a login I still can't get access but since it was a $5 test it is not worth the hassle.

    I did talk to a subscription person but they kept referring to their supervisor and clearly knew nothing about digital subscriptions and I was quoted 3-5 days* to process which means the subscription would expire before they could look at it.

    They should be able to extend subs to cover their slow process times but the over all impression is of an out sourced subs team with no clues. *After waiting longer they got it down to 24hrs but that is still too long in 2014 when the logistics should be simple and fast.

    I have some experience of using bandcamp for music projects and formula there is pay $x or more. Quite often "subscribers" there pay more than the named price. Not always but that is always welcomed.

    I did try using "flattr" which operated a micro payments system. It was recently taken over by someone else and the latest changes to their terms and conditions made it too much hassle to use.

    So for anyone looking at these systems they need to be able to have a:

    clear paid content strategy
    technology / support systems that are easy to use
    ideally a micro payment system of some kind (prepaid wallet?)

    These would all be good things to know.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 366 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Alex Clark of Victoria University got people’s attention at NetHui when he talked about his Masters project, ‘News, Renewed’:

    PROJECT OVERVIEW

    The news industry is struggling to survive in an online environment. In New Zealand, it has been estimated that for every $1 that is gained in online advertising each year, $18 is lost in print advertising (Standard Media Index 2014). News, Renewed is a research project exploring ways to improve how quality journalism is funded online. The project is assessing the best strategies for the New Zealand market, and is developing an online monetisation platform that allows these strategies to be easily implemented. Alex Clark is conducting the project within Victoria University’s Master of Advanced Technology Enterprise programme.

    KEY FINDINGS TO DATE

    A survey of 457 New Zealand newsreaders was conducted from March-April 2014. The survey explored consumers’ propensity to pay for ten different monetisation methods. Some key preliminary findings include:

    (1) Newsreaders’ willingness to pay for New Zealand news considerably increases when journalism from several publishers is packaged together.
    o Overall, only0.5% of newsreaders said that they would definitely purchase a subscription to a single New Zealand news website.
    o For a national package of all news sites this value is 1.4%(2.8x increase)
    o For a global package of publications this value is 6.6%(13x increase)
    o For a global news package bundled with music and video this value is
    12.5% (25x increase)

    (2) 18-30 year olds are the least likely to purchase a single New Zealand news website, however they are the most likely to purchase a global package of news.
    o Nobody between the ages of 18-30 said that they would definitely purchase a subscription to a single New Zealand news website (n: 134)
    o 0.75% said that they would definitely purchase a subscription to all New
    Zealand news websites (0.5x average)
    o 11.9% said that they would definitely purchase a global package of news
    websites (1.8x average)
    o 23% said that they would definitely purchase a global news package
    bundled with music and video (1.8x average)

    (3) The amount that newsreaders are willing to pay also increases when news is packaged, rather than sold as an individual subscription to a single site.
    o Overall, the number of respondents willing to pay more than $10 per
    month for a subscription doubled when offered a package of all NZ news websites. The number increased 3x when offered a global news package.
    o For 18-30 year olds, the number of respondents willing to pay more than $10 per month increased 3x when offered a package of all NZ news websites. The number increased 7x for a global news package.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Mikaere Curtis,

    I was a solution architect for a short time on the Herald paywall project. The porous paywall model (where you get a certain number of free articles per month) is perhaps the most technically difficult to deliver. Page requests need to be intercepted and free articles/subscriptions/entitlements confirmed, all within a reasonable time period.

    Integration with existing billing and subscription systems will be key, and if these are legacy systems then the technical challenges (and risks) increase. Perhaps Fairfax have decided their legacy systems are too arcane to easily integrate with a paywall layer ?

    My guess is that the Herald will offer some innovative subscription models that don't cost too much and give people what they want (i.e. access to the site via their phone, tablet or PC). Personally, I dropped our subscription to the Herald because I simply didn't have time to read the paper every day. If, however, there was an inexpensive option that gave me Saturday and Sunday editions delivered to my letterbox, and e-access the rest of the time, I'd probably buy that even though I could get similar news for free via Stuff.

    Tamaki Makaurau • Since Nov 2006 • 528 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Mikaere Curtis,

    If, however, there was an inexpensive option that gave me Saturday and Sunday editions delivered to my letterbox, and e-access the rest of the time, I’d probably buy that even though I could get similar news for free via Stuff.

    That's exactly what we get: the Herald on Friday, Saturday and Sunday + the Sunday Star Times.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • pohutukawa tree,

    Newspapers anywhere that have moved online in an effort to survive all face the same order of magnitude reduction in revenue, and what they do receive invariably needs to be shared with online partners.

    Gone are the days where they owned the bridge between advertisers and news on the one hand, and the audience on the other, extracting a handsome toll from all who passed.

    Over time they became lazy and greedy. They stopped caring about journalism, and allowed themselves to be corrupted by advertorial, donating to political parties to drive regulation in directions beneficial to them, etc.

    Further, in exchange for access to politicians and other sources of information, leaks, comment, etc., they became hopelessly invested in the mainstream media model of echo-chamber syndicated journalism, consecutively relaying depressing and sensationalist stories from far and wide, with increased circulation in mind, armed with which they could increase their demands from advertiser budgets.

    Then they were caught flat-footed by Trademe and the external forces changing their business model.

    Their only choices are closing down, going Daily Mail, as you say, or embarking on the Hive News model, and actually going back to the beginning again and focusing on quality of product.

    Given the choice, people won't pay for crap: advertorial, regurgitated meh from everywhere, lightweight analysis, etc.

    What they may pay for is something relevant that has been carefully, thoughtfully and competently composed. The challenge there is to connect with the right audience and convince them that the publisher actually cares.

    Since Jul 2014 • 11 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    I compile content for a free disability-related e-newsletter and use a lot of links from Stuff and the Herald (also Scoop etc). I expect most readers would not pay for content, and many probably don't have access to newspapers at all. Where articles are behind a paywall or not on line I tend not to use the story. There are newspapers like one in Ashburton that have good disability articles but when they are not accessible to a wider audience there is no point in alerting people to them.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3203 posts Report Reply

  • Myles Thomas,

    What continues to bother me is that while the content creators struggle to monetise their work the distributors are rolling in it, just for connecting a few wires and superior marketing. I strongly believe govt should levy the ISPs and distribute that to content creators - stuff and nzherald included.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2011 • 130 posts Report Reply

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