BusinessDay’s foray into a digital “paywall” model met with a technical glitch on Monday (6 May).
Writing in his weekly column, the Thick End of the Wedge, Publisher & editor-in-chief at Business Day, Peter Bruce confessed to teething problems in getting the paywall system up and running.
“The paywall, bless it, has for one or another reason fallen over at the last minute,” he said.
A spokesperson for BusinessDay told BusinessTech that the group had hoped to go live on Monday, but due to technical issues, it would “hopefully” go-live on Tuesday (7 May) afternoon.
“Paywalls are not even controversial anymore. The Financial Times and The New York Times and many lesser papers have erected them, with spectacular to reasonable results, in the past few years,” Bruce said.
“Is the South African market too small to host a paywall? Can you get what Business Day offers for free elsewhere on the web? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that I am tired of giving away our product for nothing. What I do know is that, if only for our print newspaper, this is the right thing to do,” he said.
Widely recognised as the most successful paywall pioneer, The New York Times last month, noted that paid digital subscribers totalled about 676,000 as of the end of the first quarter of 2013, while print and digital advertising revenues decreased 13.3% and 4.0%, respectively, largely due to ongoing secular trends and an increasingly complex and fragmented digital advertising marketplace.
The publication’s digital growth however, up 5.6% from the prior quarter, was the weakest since the publication went paywall in 2011.
“I would suggest that you obtain a digital (BDlive) and print (Business Day) combination, mainly because they’re very different animals with different content (digital to keep you up to date while you’re working, and print to wake you up with lots of original content) and, even more importantly, there’s a whopping great discount on the combination subscription. Payment by credit card will be secure and digital delivery instant,” Bruce enthused in his column.
Many comments below his article were however, less than complimentary.
TaylorJ wrote: “Problem with your paywall, Mr Bruce, is that your competitors aren’t doing so yet, where it comes to news stories. So if I can’t read your news without paying, I’ll just go to another business site. Moneyweb must be ecstatic about your decision.”
leonvz8 wrote: “Peter, For your sake, I hope you are doing the right thing. Myself, here in the UK, will not be paying a full subscription to access your e-version. I will get my news elsewhere. I have noted that the Telegraph tried it and has now quietly reverted back to free access. Your current offering does not entice me to pay for it. You should rather try the advertising model to increase your online revenues as you will haemorrhage online readers and once they are gone, they are gone.”
Curmudgeon wrote: “I don’t have a problem with having to pay for access, and enjoy the publication as it contains high quality material. However, the price is, for me, way out of line at R800 for three months for Business Day only, and excluding FM. By way of comparison, my subscription to The Times and Sunday Times of London e-editions sets me back approximately R120 per month, obviously depending upon the exchange rate.
“Sorry Business Day. At well over double, I don’t see it as reasonably priced or value for money.”
At the start of April, Afrikaans publications Beeld, Volksblad and Die Burger – functioning under the Naspers brand – announced their intention to adopt a digital first method of operation, breaking news online, and charging a fee for accessing content.
In a similar move, the Sunday Times did away with its free online content model in June 2012 already.