Political news and analysis website Newslaundry has now gone behind a paywall. Now some parts of the website can only be accessed only if readers pay for a subscription.
“Starting from today we have activated our paywall, meaning a part of our website and content will only be accessible to Newslaundry subscribers. For now, the comics and two of our podcasts (NL Hafta, Let’s Talk About) are going behind the paywall. However, going forward, there will be more restricted content only for our subscribers,” the website said in an email to readers.
A look at the website’s subscription plans :
So far, in India, some of the publications who have opted to take some of their content behind a paywall includes Business Standard, VCCircle and The Ken.
Newslaundry’s move takes significance as media houses in India are facing declining advertising revenues. For the quarter ended September 2016, HT Media, which publishes dailies such as Hindustan Times and Mint, print advertising was down 2% to Rs 466 crore from Rs 475.5 crore in Q2 FY16. However, most of them are wary about charging customers for fear of losing readership.
Sandeep Jain, chief strategy officer, HT Media had this to say about declining ad revenues and monetizing readers during an analyst call:
Shalini Gupta : “One last question. What is the problem that you are facing with respect to monetizing your readership online, because your readership in the newspapers, in the hard copies is well established, but what is getting in the way of you monetizing your readership online?
Sandeep Jain (Chief Strategy Officer, HT Media): Let me ask you this way, do you Shalini pay for news online?
Shalini Gupta: No, why would I pay for it?
Sandeep Jain: That is where the answer lies. That is the difficulty, and it is a phenomenon which is not only prevalent in India, but worldwide. The opportunity to monetize readership on digital is so much more difficult.
Shalini Gupta: So why not all of you get together and start charging for news online?
Sandeep Jain: At some point in time that would be the intention, but you know that some of these things are not that easy.
And in April 2016, Anant Goenka, head of new media at Indian Express said this on monetizing content behind a paywall:
Four years back, I had said that Indian Express website would be the first Indian news website which would go behind a paywall. I take all of that back. There is no way that would work in the Indian context. If there is one group of people who would pay for the news online, it would be the NRIs.
Meanwhile, internationally, the New York Times published a report on how the paper would be plan to monetize in the future and stressed that it would only focus on subscriptions.
“We are, in the simplest terms, a subscription-first business. Our focus on subscribers sets us apart in crucial ways from many other media organizations. We are not trying to maximize clicks and sell low-margin advertising against them. We are not trying to win a pageviews arms race. We believe that the more sound business strategy for The Times is to provide journalism so strong that several million people around the world are willing to pay for it,” the publication added.
Various news publications have also started either prompting users to disable adblockers or buy a subscription.