Afrikaans newspaper titles Beeld, Volksblad, and Die Burger have all decided to run the gauntlet by adopting a paywall system.
All three titles, which function under the Naspers brand, announced separately at the start of April that they will be adopting a digital first method of operation, breaking news online, and charging a fee for accessing their content.
In December, Naspers CEO Koos Bekker said that the print versus online debate was an “emotional issue, but emotions shouldn’t come into it. The business world is a hard world and you have to face reality or die.”
“The reality is that the print business has two forces working against it. The one is cyclical – so in a recession people cut advertising, before they cut any other cost. So newspapers, [with] 50% of their revenue coming from advertising, are going to be quite susceptible to the pace of the economy,” Bekker said.
“In a boom, newspapers boom; in a recession they suffer, and likewise magazines. So that’s the first problem.”
Bekker noted that the second problem was that of the Internet eating into print’s market.
Beeld announced on April 1 that it would launch a new website, with readers getting 20 articles for free before having to pay for content.
The paper said it had hoped to keep articles free to read online, however income from online advertising has been far less than what it has experienced in print in the past.
The paper said it already has a daily online readership of 80,000 people.
Volksblad said that, in order to keep up in the digital era, it needed to break news on a digital platform. The paper cited the recent events surrounding Oscar Pistorius as an example of breaking the news as it happens online and on social media platforms.
Volksblad said it would continue to have ‘fresh’ news in its daily print edition, as indeed did the other two papers.
“For Volksblad’s readers, this means that you can follow news – as it happens – on our digital platforms, and get fresh news in tomorrow’s paper,” the paper said (translated).
Volksblad stressed that it is becoming more apparent worldwide that papers are unable to give away content for free as a sustainable business model.
Die Burger said that a pay model is a necessary step to protect the value of its “product” – namely news, entertainment, analysis and commentary.
The paper said that to gather news and other content, is an intensive and expensive process.
“In order for Die Burger to continue making ‘good wine’ (a quality product) – we have to stop giving away half of it for free,” it said (translated).
What will it cost?
For full subscribers (five or six days per week) users would get the digital bundle (which includes access through the web app and the tablet edition) for free.
For non-subscribers, a digital bundle (internet access and the tablet edition) will cost R99 per month. This includes access to all three publications.
Non subs will get access to 20 free articles monthly on Beelds, Die Burger’s and Volksblad’s websites.