Earlier this month, the Danish broadsheet newspaper Politiken increased the fee on its digital subscription significantly – from 79 DKK to 299 (from approximately 10.50 Euros to approximately 40). It’s a 278 percent increase, and even though there may be some cautious support for it in parts of the academic literature, I’m somewhat skeptical as to whether it will be a success. “It’s the economy, stupid”, and one can get too much good journalism elsewhere for the same price (see the chart below) for me to be fully convinced that the pricing is the right one.
I’ve written a piece for the Danish online medium Kommunikationsforum where I analyze and assess the adjusted pricing of Politiken’s. It’s in Danish, but it may be of interest for some. Enjoy.
The Journal of Media Business Studies has now published my new research article “The free-to-fee transition: audiences’ attitudes toward paying for online news“. The article is co-authored with Morten Boeck, Jakob Vikær Hansen, and Lars Juul Hadberg Hauschildt and builds, empirically, upon research they did for their master thesis in 2013 (I was the supervisor of this thesis*).
In the article, we present a study of audiences’ attitudes toward and willingness to pay the subscription, which Danish omnibus newspaper Politiken launched on its news website politiken.dk in May, 2013.
Here’s the abstract:
After more than a decade of giving online news away for free, legacy newspaper organisations in many Western countries have recently begun charging audiences for access to online journalistic content. Focusing empirically on a Danish case, this article uses one survey (n = 1054) and two focus groups to examine audiences’ attitudes towards paying for online news. The analysis suggests that audiences’ general principles regarding paying for online news influence their willingness to pay more than the size of the subscription fee. Furthermore, the analysis shows that younger audiences’ willingness to pay increases if they can combine content from different news providers and thereby individualise their news products. The latter in particular can have practical implications as it presents a way forward for economically challenged legacy newspaper organisations, but it might also compromise the democratic ideals of journalism.
The article is, ironically, published behind a paywall, but I can send you an early version upon request.
* Students often do a lot of good work in their master theses, and it is in the final instance paid for by the tax payers (through the Danish system of free access to higher education) who can also use it for something, but it rarely reaches a larger audience than the people who have an obligation to read it – the author, the examiners, and the mothers or partners who cannot say no to proof-reading the final copy. With this article, I am happy to have helped some of the high-quality student-conducted research get out to the public.
Today, in an article in MediaWatch, Politiken announced that it’s going to adjust its digital subscription. Politiken currently has a metered model with free access to 25 articles per month and two types of subscription: one that costs 44 DKK monthly, and one that costs 66 DKK and also includes membership of the Politiken Plus shopping program.
With the adjustment announced today, the 44 DKK option is closed so that all subscribers must pay 66 DKK per month. Furthermore, the number of free articles will be reduced (even though it remains unclear just how big that reduction will be). The MediaWatch article does not specify when the adjustment will take place.
It’s hardly surprising that Politiken adjusts their digital subscription model this way. There are two reasons for this.
First, the difference between what Politiken and Berlingske, their most comparable competitor online, offer has been quite large. They both use the metered model, but while Politiken would monthly give away 25 article before charging 44 DKK, Berlingske only give free access to 10 articles before charging 79 DKK. The fact that there has been almost as many digital subscribers to Berlingske (who charges more for quantitatively less) indicates that Politiken could actually tweak their subscription model to the organization’s own benefit.
Second, The New York Times did the same. According to people within the organization, Politiken largely based their digital subscription strategy on that of the NYT, and almost exactly one year after the NYT launched their paywall (on April 12, 2012 – it was launched in March, 2011), they downsized the number of free articles from 20 to ten. In short, the strategy was to initially test the market and make the customers used to paying for online news – and then adjust the subscription model to one that would be commercially viable for the news organization. This modus operandi has now been reenacted by Politiken, the difference being that the Danish news organization conducted the adjust only eight months after the initial implementation.
This post was originally published on my (now defunct) other website Paywall Watch.