Publisher and chief executive officer Phillip Crawley told an all-staff meeting Thursday that the paper will implement a metered paywall system this fall, asking readers to pay if they read more than a certain number of articles each month.
The number of free articles per month hasn’t yet been established, nor has pricing.
“We have chosen to go for the big move rather than do it a step at a time,” Mr. Crawley said. “Based on what we see going on in the advertising market, we’ve decided to go for it now. We had already made the decision, it was a case of how quickly we would do it.”
The Globe and Mail is essentially following the lead of the New York Times, which introduced a metered approach in March 2011. After initially offering free access to as many as 20 articles per month, the NYT has cut that back to 10. However, NYT articles reached by search and social links don’t count against the total.
In a blog post that came after the story, Globe editor-in-chief John Stackhouse wrote, “We will let you know how many articles will be free at a later date, but most readers will not run into the limit on the meter.”
Both papers had more rigid paywalls in their past, but abandoned them. In its approach, the Globe also tried to squeeze money out of existing newspaper subscribers for online access, which was a particular burr under my blanket.*
* From Stackhouse’s blog post: “If I already pay for the newspaper or Globe2Go, will I need to pay more for an online subscription? We can confirm that newspaper and Globe2Go subscribers will get special access. Details will be announced later.” Special access and free aren’t the same things.
The Globe isn’t the only Canadian newspaper company looking to extract more direct revenue from online news consumers:
Postmedia Network Inc. has experimented with metered paywalls at its daily newspapers in Montreal and Victoria, and said last month it would also put paywalls up at the Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province.
An April 12 Globe and Mail story goes into more details on the moves at Postmedia.
The big question to be answered is whether putting a price on access for regular users will cause those individuals to seek substitutions or make them shell out in order to consume quality journalism.
But clearly, newspapers feel relying on advertising alone isn’t cutting it on the revenue side.
Both today’s story and the April 12 one suggest newspapers are feeling the weakness in the current advertising market.