So, after an abundance of rumours for the last 5 years, the Irish Times have finally publicly announced they will be going behind the paywall (well, partially)… next week!
€12 per month for 3 devices simultaneously. For that, you get what you currently get, plus access to the archive. For €16 you get, erm the same thing but you can have it look like a newspaper page pdf thingy (giant collective PASS). For digital plus print it’s… well you don’t really care about that one either, right? They’ve posted the full details here in case.
The Free Stuff:
You’ll have a set limit of full articles you can access and you’ll still be able to access any article through social media. So what will that mean? Well I reckon four things:
1) The number of IT journalists not on Twitter will rapidly fall. If their article views decrease, they will no doubt feel forced to act by pushing it themselves (which, I’d argue is what they should all be doing anyway).
2) The number of people following them will increase, like a lot (cause – yay, free articles).
3) Actually to that end, the number of people following anyone with a subscription will increase a lot.
4) The homepage of IT will seriously fall of views/visitors wise (as everyone will be going direct to articles).
What will this mean for that brand? I’m not sure. I think it’s great that they’ve acknowledged social’s roll is now huge in how news and media is shared today and I think being experimental in this format (when no other paper has done it) is very brave but ultimately, such a generous model is setting up subscriptions for failure to achieve anything in terms of significant number goals.
Why I’ll be Paying Anyway:
Last Summer – due to the uncomfortable constantly nagging feelings of info-FOMO and general FOMO I conducted a serious media cleanse. The end result is that my Facebook account was deleted, my number of pointless Twitter followings irradiated and I chose to stick to one direct Irish media news source per day – the IT. If other articles came my way via either Umano or tweeters whose endorsement I’d rate – I might have a look. But other than that, nada. Oh and no live television either (bar, perversely, Googlebox occasionally). It might sound limiting but at the end of the day, there’s only so much shite you can look at/read/listen too in 24hours. Since then, as I’ve mentioned specifically re. Facebook previously, life’s been a good deal calmer. My headspace is happier and I’ve actually read a few of these mad things called books and completed a few online courses in my spare time.
I’ve found Irish Times suits my news needs and I don’t really want to loose that. Yes, there is plenty of high quality free online content in the world (amongst all the mountains upon mountains of totally vacuous time wasting Buzzfeed styled rubbish), but there really isn’t that much local high quality stuff.
There is zero consumer incentive for the 16 Euro a month package (just for access to an essentially defunct format in digital) – it reflects the ‘extra work’ on the part of the paper not any added value to the reader. But 12 Euro for quality journalism?… Sure. No problem. I’ll pay that. Not because I think this is the right way for them to structure payment/pricing mind you, but because I would like to see the paper survive until such a time as they actually find the right solution.
Ultimately, I don’t think any periodical has got it right. And they won’t. It’s going to take a scary maverick with an outside solution that mirrors how we pay for music and movie content. It’s going to take Spotify for journalism (and that may included newspaper/magazine titles… or it may cut out that middleman altogether). And I think that’s not just true for the Irish Times, it’s true for all journalism.
The Marketer’s Point of View:
Basic consumer psychology will tell you it really isn’t the smartest thing to change your price without communicating a new value (real or perceived) to the consumer. To introduce a paywall without giving us some perceived initial additional value at the same time – like an improved website etc. or access to events (I’m not talking about ‘subscribe-to-this-life-assurance-and-get-a-free-pen-sort-of-thing).
As an advertiser, I think they would have been better served improving their targeting of ads via prompted sign in (like 4oD) first for a year – so the ads we see are based on our habits and improved knowledge of their readers over time (through, say, incentivised surveys). Ultimately as an advertiser, if all you can tell me is your numbers, and those numbers are retracting YoY, that doesn’t paint a great picture. Put if you can tell me you have 3,000 dog owners, who I can reach with an ad about pet food, that doesn’t have ad spend ‘waste’ being seen (and annoying) everyone else… that’s more compelling. Print online is in a very unique position to do that. It sounds mundane but advertising keeps these things going. And nobody in Ireland is utilising it properly online. NOBODY
So will you be forking up €12 a month? How do you think it fares against the price of UPC, Netflix, Spotify or other subscriptions you have? Lemme know!