More local print titles erect paywalls
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Paywalls would become a viable model for newspaper publishers in South Africa who sought additional income to print revenues, as an increasing number of users wanted more quality information, a media analyst said on Friday.
The model is fast becoming a reality for the print media industry. Last week, Naspers’ newspapers Die Burger, Beeld and Volksblad announced the introduction of a metered paywall to their online content, following in footsteps of Business Day, which has also been testing the concept on its readers.
According to Vicki Myburgh, the entertainment and media industries leader at PwC Southern Africa, local media will be as successful at selling content online as their international peers, including the Financial Times and The New York Times, have been.
“As long as the content is quality customised to the specific needs of consumers, together with the correct price at which the content is sold, any media can be sold online. With high quality journalism, aimed at the correct consumers at the right price, anything can be sold,” she said.
“Even with the uptake being low for paid digital newspaper circulation in 2011, we expect 120.4 percent combined annual growth over the forecast period ending 2016, with paid circulation figures expected to increase from 2 000 to 86 000 over this period.”
However, Steven Ambrose, the chief executive of Strategy Worx, is less convinced that paywalls will be a viable option for local media.
“In my view, paywalls will ultimately result in the failure of current print organisations as they can never replace print and will drive away advertising to more nimble digitally based online platforms.”
Ambrose argued that local and print media had little chance of making the paywall model effective enough to recover losses in print media.
While print media was read cover to cover, digital content was consumed differently and often on multiple digital platforms by a single user.
Ambrose said many international outlets discovered that content needed to be exceptional and unique to make a paywall viable, and a more comprehensive approach included paywalls and rich media apps coupled with television stations such as Sky News, which was a more compelling offering and allowed a single subscription to be viewed on many platforms.
“Print media locally lack these channels, and will suffer as a result,” he argued.
The compensation for readers of Naspers’ Afrikaans titles online is the allowance of 20 free articles, after which they will have to pay. The project was in testing phase, said Beeld, which has 80 000 readers online, on its website.
Subscribers to the print editions will get unlimited free access to the digital edition.
Sebastian Stent, the head of digital at Media 24, which publishes the papers and is owned by Naspers, said the declining interest in print publications had necessitated the shift for Media 24.
Last October, PwC forecast that the average annual newspaper spending by consumers would decline from R610 in 2011 to R600 by 2016, with well-heeled and middle-income consumers being especially inclined to abandon traditional formats of obtaining news.