An editor shared some paywall results with me yesterday.
...We have had a digital subscription plan in place for a few months. We don’t even have 300 subscribers yet. It’s a failure. Even at the corporate level we’ve stopped hearing about paywalls. They know they aren’t working either....
Chittum and Starkman delight in the reported “$100 million” in revenue delivered by the New York Times paywall, as though that proves that paywalls are a successful digital business strategy for newspapers. But that figure is meaningless on at least four levels that I can think of:
1) It’s the New York Times. Nothing that it does extrapolates to other news organizations.
2) The gross revenue figure tells us nothing until the Times reveals how much it spent to develop its pay “meter,” how much it costs to operate and promote the paywall and how much its advertising revenue declines because of the traffic it loses from the paywall (or how much extra revenue it gets because advertisers value subscribers more than they value the non-paying audience). We don’t know whether the net revenue to the Times from its paywall is $90 million, $10 million or even a net loss.
3) The Times announced this week that it is attempting to buy out 30 more journalists. I won’t call a company’s strategy successful until the business is growing, not cutting.
4) We’ll never know what kind of revenue the Times might have generated if it had spent the millions that it poured into the paywall on more forward-looking strategies.
Via Andrey Miroshnichenko