Paywalls: Would you pay $20 to read a newspaper online?

Go ahead and call me a news junkie freeloader, ’cause I love to read my newspapers online for free. And why shouldn’t I? Up until a few years ago most prominent newspapers were happy to publish well-researched stories written by talented journalists, and just give them away to online freeloaders like myself, for free. I believe these media outlets called us digital mooches ‘guests’.

Anyfreeread, the free ride is over. On October 22 The Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s largest newspapers, is following the digital subscription model notably embraced by The New York Times by building a paywall to keep out the unprofitable riffraff like me.

newspaper paywall

I understand why paywalls exist. Go ahead and Google ‘decline in print advertising’ and read (for free) about the collapse of the old print model. Turns out people used to pay for tangible newspaper subscriptions. Today, readers save trees by reading news online, for free. Let’s blame the iPad and smartphones, OK?

Globe and Mail media reporter Steve Ladurantaye (@sladurantaye) sums up the costly situation in a free tweet:

Steve Ladurantaye

According to Mashable, a free news site, 20% of U.S. newspapers now have online paywalls — “twice the number that did a year ago.”

Given this trend to build paywall systems, I can’t help but wonder — who is paying the bucks to read newspapers online?

Someone must be. The New York Times paywall is working. Despite costing anywhere from $3.75 to $8.75 per week for an online subscription, the NYT had more than half a million digital subscribers as of the end of June.

Back in Canada, The Globe and Mail hopes to repeat The New York Times’ success. Charging $20 per month for ‘unlimited’ online access, The Globe’s digital subscription costs 18ish bucks less than a dead tree subscription. Sign up for traditional newspaper delivery and get the digital subscription for free.

How to get past a metered paywall

Do not despair, dear freeloaders, there are a few legal ways around a newspaper’s paywall. Take these five tips for a free trial spin and save.

1. Work your meter. Many paywalled newspapers are happy to grant mooches a few free reads each month. Both the NYT and The Globe give readers access to 10 free articles per month before hitting the paywall. Exceed this amount and a paywall popup may ask for your credit card number. Wait for the next month to roll around, and you’re back to your scheduled amount.

2. Follow your paper socially. Is your favorite paywalled newspaper social media friendly? Follow them on Twitter or Facebook and you may be able to click through to those articles without upticking your meter.

3. Get social with your favorite journalists. I admit I play favorites when it comes to the news media. I like some writers more than others, so I follow them on Twitter and Facebook to enjoy their must-reads and weekly contributions. Because links shared through social media often don’t count against a meter, it’s makes good financial sense to socially follow your star reporters and glean their goods for free. Heck, share these reads with others, drive traffic back to the newspaper site, and everyone wins.

4. Google it. What site doesn’t appreciate a little free search engine traffic? All of them! Since many paywalled newspapers give Googlers a break, search for articles and click away without dipping into your metered reads.

5. Buck up. If you love the content and can’t live without professionally edited copy written by professional journalists, buck up and buy a dang digital subscription. There’s no sense in spending your precious hours dicking around with a paywall meter if you benefit from a publication regularly. Seriously.

I don’t work for free. You probably shouldn’t either.

So sign me up for The Globe and Mail’s digital subscription. I’m in.

Love,
Kerry

Your two cents:

  1. Harold October 18th, 2012

    My difficulty is that I like to regularly read articles from over a dozen newspapers and magazines. I can’t afford to subscribe to them all but I completely understand why they need the income. It’s too bad that someone hasn’t come up with a system whereby you pay per article viewed. Say you’d be willing to pay $20 a month for newspaper/magazine access. So each time you read an article at one of the participating newspapers, a few pennies would be deducted from your balance (not the dollars that some sites request).

  2. kaylen October 18th, 2012

    You can also read the articles online using the databases your library (likely) subscribes to, which update on the day the article is pubished. You don’t get the photos or the navigation, but it’s free and legal.

  3. Gene October 18th, 2012

    I don’t find online reading to be as pleasant as a real newspaper. Also, I never was that interested in reading newspapers. I do like The Onion though. I have so many internet devices that I could read ten articles on each and never run out of free clicks.

  4. Rob October 19th, 2012

    I love it when newspapers start to lock themselves behind paywalls. I try not to follow the news anyway, and when they make it hard it’s easier not to.

    The news is all bad anyway – there are lots of other things in life more meaningful than reading a newspaper, online or off…

  5. Kinya October 19th, 2012

    Newsweek is also following this pattern. I believe starting in 2013 they won’t be available through traditional print anymore. They’ll only be available through a paid subscription online. It seems to be a trend. I, personally, cannot stand reading my books and newspapers online. Ironic, considering my occupation (I’m a web writer by trade) but I love the smell and feel of newspapers and books in my hand. I like to mark up my puzzles in black ink, use highlighter, write in the margins. I can’t do that online. Oh well. Guess I’m in the minority.

  6. shipcarpenter305 October 19th, 2012

    I actually build wooden boats by hand and there are not very many buyer’s. Two hundred years ago, I would have made a fortune, but the world evolves and the land can support only a few dinosaur carpenters like me. Other than my local rag, as other’s seem to feel, I would never subscribe to any single news outlet to stay informed so I can’t see the Paywall model lasting. What will be the dominant money making news distribution model? Personally, I think some kid is working on it right now as we speak.

  7. Tara October 19th, 2012

    I read my free 10 articles a month on the NYT, and I also get their daily email of the headlines. When I see a headline story that interests me but I’ve run up against the paywall, I just go out to google and find another news source that is carrying the same story but isn’t charging and read it there for free.

  8. Cheri October 20th, 2012

    If I were to pay for a news, it would be to a truly idependent media rather than the NYT or any of the other big media that number one do not always tell the truth and number two are more interested in their advertisers than their readers. I to a course a couple of years ago on socialogy and the media, I hated it as I had to read regular papers and watch TV for an entire semester. However, I learned a lot and the biggest thing I learned is that no media will cut its throat by offending a sponsor. Consequently few of them tell a story that could be controversial. We all know about the dark money in the campaign. There are too many independent news sources to pay for an inferior one that will lie to you.

  9. ladams October 20th, 2012

    Calgary Public Library has a newspaper service free with your library card that allows you to read local and international papers online. I don’t make the time to read daily papers, but if I did I wouldn’t pay for it… We also have free local papers you can pick up on the street like “Metro” I don’t think traditional newspapers will survive.

  10. DeeInRI October 21st, 2012

    I read 1 paper newspaper. It’s a regional weekly, and it’s free like OTA TV, ad supported.
    I get all the local info, including news and local events, and they have a website as well.
    There is a daily in my city, but it’s costly, and run by outsiders, so not very good for local stuff.

    You can get dizzy with all the spins to keep from offending advertisers on every media front anyway.

    The only thing I ever need a print newspaper for these days is to place an Obituary, and the simplest Obits cost hundreds of dollars. You can’t get an obit online unless you pay for the print version.

  11. Charlotte October 21st, 2012

    I believe in newspapers and pay for the real thing. Journalists and all the backup required to support a newspaper need to be paid. pay people. You wouldn’t want to work for free. Quality journalism will go down the tube and we will be subject to Fox News and it’s rabid supporters if we don’t watch out.

  12. john October 21st, 2012

    Usually it’s the advertising that drives/supports a paper’s revenues and less about the subscription revenues. Hence the ability for papers to offer extreme discounts on subscriptions. I am subscribed to the National Post for its paper…and have experienced reduced reporting, reduced coverage, no papers on Mondays. The digital edition is now behind a paywall and I can’t access even if I subscribe to their paper version.

    I’d support a digital subscription but something tells me i’ll still be bombarded by online, annoying ads. So if it’s ad-free, I’d consider.

  13. Octopus October 23rd, 2012

    In my experience, most advertising and pay walls can be blocked by editing your system’s “hosts” file. This is another alternative to get past a pay wall. This is hardly illegal, but it overrides the policy of the publishers and is basically a free back-door entrance to their content. Like any hacking, it raises ethical concerns and requires technical know-how.

  14. Sarah G. October 31st, 2012

    Ditto Charlotte above. I don’t work for free, why should journalists, editors and other newspaper staff?

    Another point: journalists and newspapers are part of a democracy. They keep the public service honest and there’s the whole investigative journalism thing as well. We don’t want to lose that.

    I’m already paying for the Toronto Star, I think it’s important.

  15. diane November 6th, 2012

    The no-brainer that you missed is your local library! For print or electronic. I’m glad to see some other readers have already suggested this. Let me also suggest asking librarians for help if you have trouble accessing any kind of information you need – it is what they do.

  16. AverageMan February 18th, 2013

    I think what we’re seeing is a species trying to fight off the effects of natural selection. The ‘old’ newspaper business model isn’t working well in the digital age. People aren’t buying hard copies of newspapers as much, so subscription revenues are down – a lot. Yet online readership was growing.

    So what do the newspapers do? Do they embrace the new delivery mode and new business model – a model NOT dependent on subscriptions? No, they take their old, failing business model and hang it on the new environment.

    We’ll see if the species known as newspapers can adapt, or will it drive itself to extinction?

  17. W.Palmer August 8th, 2013

    I worked for years for a major daily.
    It is a very competitive business.

    The major costs of a newspaper are the makeup, printing and circulation.
    Publishing on line eliminates these costs dramatically.

    Collecting news can be done from an iPad anywhere these days, collation, for now at least, requires some in house work.

    Discount, hi end, chain store retailers etc: provided massive revenues to the publishers, with one and two page spreads, and exclusive inserts.
    This kind of advertizing is just not feasible or tolerable to an on line reader. Plus a newspaper page would have to be an exclusive site free of the “unrelated” ads that generally clutter up a site “for free”.

    Many people now just browse the news and, because they are able, will look at many newspapers, as I do, including overseas publications as well.
    To pay a subscription to each one would be prohibitive and not worth the money since I may only look at one or two newspapers and one or two articles a month.
    Subscription services I think will seriously deter and shrink an already reduced readership.

    The problem for newspapers is definitely advertizing revenue and the problem for advertisers is how to mass sell their product on e-media.

    So far I see very little vision from publishers. The solutions proposed are guaranteed to make them extinct.

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