The Onion is test driving a metered paywall on its site. Now non-US users who want to read more than 5 articles a month on the site will be prompted to pay up to the tune of $2.95 per month, or $29.95 annually.
“Like everyone else in publishing, we are constantly testing a mix of advertising and paid access,” The Onion chief technology officer Michael Greer told paidContent. “We have found that most of our readers share articles with each other, and flow in and out of our site, and we do not want to limit that behavior…There is also a set of avid readers, and we have chosen an article limit which allows that fan base to support us directly. On other platforms like the Kindle and Nook, we have had great support from our fans and other interested readers, which has given us confidence for this move.”
So why only international readers?
The Onion is trying the idea out first in countries where customers are already used to paying for web content. The plan is to test drive the service is places where readers are used to paying and work out any kinks before trying it out elsewhere.
The Onion actually ran a story about paywalls in March when the NY Times decided to enact a paywall on its site. In that story, the Onion article stated:
“NYTimes.com put into place a groundbreaking new business model today in which the news website will charge people money to consume the goods and services it provides. “The whole idea of an American business trying to make a profit off of a product its hired professionals create on a daily basis is a truly brave and intrepid strategy,” said media analyst Steve Messner, adding that NYTimes.com’s extremely risky new approach to commerce—wherein legal tender must be exchanged in order to receive a desired service—could drastically reduce the publication’s readership….”
While said in satire. The concept itself is one that we are likely to see pop up on quite a few sites. If you’re going to run a successful publication such as the Times or the Onion you’re going to need to get money to pay for that site someone. While advertising dollars certainly help, when they’re not enough a paywall is certainly a viable alternative.
What do you think about sites launching paywalls? Would you be willing to pay to read content from some of your favorite site, or would you stop reading them if you were forced to pay?