By Tricia Fulks

Reuters columnist Felix Salmon wrote today that the New York Times will toughen its paywall policy because some readers are finding their way around its “first click free” allowance.

Salmon wrote that the publication’s paywall is “porous” because users enter the site from other outlets, i.e. Google, Twitter, etc., and “will always be able to read the article they’re looking for, even if they’ve used up their monthly quota. As a result, it’s more of a navigation fee than a charge for content.”

Now, I must admit – I’m no economist, so I don’t completely understand all of the ins and outs of the business side of journalism. But, simply put, with everything going online and money being lost in print and broadcast, something needs to be done. It’s just too bad that readers consumed the news for free and now they’re being charged for content.

So, will this paywall model work?

Barry Diller seems to think so.

Diller, who just last week stepped down as CEO of IAC/InterActiveCorp, told Bloomberg TV that paywalls will work…eventually. According to this Huffington Post article, Diller said since people are used to paying for applications – “99 cents or whether they pay for a tune, or they pay 99 cents to play Solitaire, or $4.95 to do this or $2.95 to do that” – it’s this that will prepare society to have to pay for news.

“Diller said that the New York Times paywall will probably fail at first, but will ultimately succeed,” which was published June 18.

But it’s not just the mainstream media – The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, even the community newspaper The Concord Monitor in New Hampshire – that are considering or implementing paywalls. Citizen journalists – or more parochially dubbed bloggers – are setting up the wall.

The Tompkins Times, a blog out of Liverpool, charges 3.50 pounds a month for premium members, 2 pounds a month for standard. Paul Tompkins, creator, thought the charge would generate some income, but not 2,000 regular readers, according to Sutro Digital Dialogue. Sutro Digital believes Tompkins’ paywall works for a few reasons:

  • He is an authority on his chosen niche – Liverpool Football Club.
  • He is focused on building a community, not just a blog (This, I believe, is important.)
  • He exerts rigorous standards in this community.
  • He is a great tech partner.
  • He isn’t scared to experiment – like creating the different subscription levels.
  • He has developed other projects, a book “Pay As You Play: The True Price of Success in the Premier League Era.
  • He judiciously uses social media.

So one blogger has found a successful model, according to Sutro Digital. One media mogul believes the NYT will eventually find its footing with its paywall. What do you think? Like most ventures in media, is this just something the industry needs to catch up to?