Online News Media – Are pay walls the future?

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Magazines on Newsstand

Magazines on Newsstand

THUNDER BAY – There is a growing trend online for news websites to put up ‘pay-walls’. Recently there have been new programs put in place at the Globe and Mail and a number of the Postmedia newspaper websites in Canada. The move is an effort to re-coup the costs of online news and information.

Sun Media has announced plans for their paid services. Sun Media is calling their new service, “SUN+”. It is putting, in effect a ‘pay wall’ around some of the content that the company offers.

It will offer exclusive insider access to an unlimited digital experience on TorontoSUN.com, CalgarySUN.com, OttawaSUN.com, EdmontonSUN.com, WinnipegSUN.com, and their mobile apps. Effective on Tuesday, December 4th 2012, visitors to any one of the five SUN websites will be encouraged to register for a SUN+ subscription to enjoy a completely unlimited SUN digital content experience.

Visitors to the SUN websites who are not signed up will get unlimited access to: news highlights, hot topics, breaking news stories, an extensive lineup of bloggers, the daily Sunshine Girl photo, ‘coffee break’ diversions, and 20 SUN+ premium articles per month absolutely free!

SUN app users enjoy news highlights on its Android, iOS or BlackBerry mobile apps.

Sun Media reports, “SUN+ provides insider access to in-depth local news, hard-hitting columnists, live sports commentary, unlimited social sharing of SUN+ content, exclusive Sunshine Girl videos and the investigative journalism that keeps visitors coming back for more. SUN+ subscribers also receive a mobile app upgrade unlocking an enhanced on-the-go experience for Android and iOS device users”.

“Today marks another important milestone in Sun Media’s digital transformation and its commitment to delivering the quality and reliable journalism our readers expect and deserve,” said Pierre Karl Péladeau, President and CEO of Sun Media.

SUN+ digital subscribers get access to a special introductory rate of $0.99 per month for their first three months, allowing visitors to go beyond the headlines and enjoy the SUN+ digital experience. After three months, the $5.99 regular monthly rate for a SUN+ digital subscription will apply. The digital cost is less than the cost of a home newspaper subscription. Home paper subscribers will get the SUN+ included in their monthly subscription. SUN print subscribers will be required to go online and register for FREE to gain unlimited access to the website and mobile apps.

While other media outlets have or plan to embark on this industry wide transformation, Sun Media’s market leading Journal de Montreal and Journal de Quebec introduced a VIP digital experience for website visitors in September. “Encouraging early results suggest our customers support digital monetization and value our extensive team of experienced journalists across the country,” said Péladeau.

“Sun Media is dedicated to delivering on its digital leadership position and its commitment to providing quality content, with local presence, and maximum value to its advertisers and customers,” added Péladeau.

The transition from printed page to digital formats have generated a lot of change in a very short time frame for magazines and newspapers. Moving toward a means of having customers pay for content is being seen as a means of recovering what is seen as lost revenues as print ads have migrated out of the newspapers.

The transition has not been the easiest for many media outlets, and for the industry it has appeared overall as a difficult transition across many American newspapers. The other side is that online news sites like the BBC and CNN do not have pay walls. The BBC, for international visitors puts advertising on the page. CNN usually offers one ad on their site.

For many Internet surfers, it is likely that there will be a transition as some will sign up for the monthly subscription plans, and others will find access to news.

In many ways, what likely was missed by major media outlets when they started to put their content online was that to a customer the Internet is like radio, once you have the computer, there is no added costs for listening. Media outlets could have approached the CRTC seeking a small fee from Internet Service Providers that could have covered their online presence. That would be very much like the process in place for television stations and specialty channels on cable services.

However it is likely that train has long left the station and for many media outlets it is now a challenge to figure out a path to digital prosperity.

James Murray

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