On the Press Gazette blog, Dominic Ponsford notes an interesting fact about the Financial Times’s paywall, which has come in for relatively less press attention than the London Times’s (perhaps due to lacking the polarizing figure of Rupert Murdoch to act as a focus).
Although (or perhaps because) the Financial Times‘s paywall is considerably less rigid than the London Times’s (allowing visitors from Google, and letting unpaid subscribers read up to 10 articles per month), the Financial Times seems to be experiencing considerably more success, recently claiming to have 149,000 paying digital subscribers. Ponsford writes:
The beauty of the FT’s system is that it keeps reminding casual readers it is there by remaining part of the web ecosystem while forcing those who become devoted readers to cough up some money.
Ponsford also attributes its success to the specialist nature of the site attracting people who were more likely to have enough disposable income not to find the subscription fee an undue imposition, and the way the Financial Times adds value that the London Times does not.
It’s hard to know quite how to feel about this. I’m not exactly a non-partisan observer; I’d like paywalls to fail and fail hard. But perhaps if some of them must be successful, it’s good that the milder ones are successful in ways that show why the really hard-line ones are mistaken in their outlook.