Paywalled political content and reaching an audience

When politicians use media to get their message out they generally want as big an audience as possible.  So if one media source puts most political content behind a paywall, who are politicians more likely to talk to?

If politicians think that a story has to be made public but they want as little exposure as possible perhaps the paywall approach helps them do this.


Stuff sale and NZME paywall

Stuff has an article on it’s own pending sale, and also has a look at NZME’s proposed NZ Herald paywall in Stuff faces possible break-up as NZME readies its wall

Australian media company Nine hopes to have the sale of Stuff Ltd pretty much wrapped up by the end of June.

Nine is expected to put out an “information memorandum” on the business in a few weeks that should give potential buyers and tyre-kickers a clear picture of the business.

Nine’s clear preference is for a clean sale and a quick exit from the New Zealand market.

But a key question is whether Stuff might be worth less as an integrated business than the sum of its parts.

If it is, then Nine could be forced get its hands dirty to extract full value from the divestment, or alternatively it could sell Stuff to a private equity buyer that would then break it up.

Stuff has already sold or closed quite a bit of regional media.

On the NZME paywall:

NZME has reportedly been researching a $3 to $7 weekly fee for access to some “premium” content on its NZ Herald website.

That would be $156 to $364 per year! How many people would be prepared to pay that?

In August, chief executive Michael Boggs forecast NZME might convert 4 to 6 per cent of its online audience – which is shy of 2 million – into paying customers.

He based that on what he said was the benchmark in Australia, where paywalls have been around longer and encompass a wider range of content.

However, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism in the United States estimates the top 10 per cent of paywalled publications only succeed in persuading 1.3 per cent of readers who hit the stop sign on a paywall to then pay up.

Companies may be prepared to pay several hundred dollar subscriptions, but I doubt there would be many individuals who would.

Whoever takes over Stuff will have an obvious interest in the NZME paywall plans. If it flops Stuff will be even more wary of trying similar – in fact if NZME loses readers by paywalling ‘premium’ content then Stuff would have an opportunity to pick them up. But that will depend on what happens in the attempt to sell off Stuff.


Trust the Herald enough to pay for news online?

NZ Herald is moving towards a payment model for ‘premium news’ online. Preparing for this they are advertising in their own newspaper about trust of media and news – as criticism increases over dubious news and and click-bait trivia becoming more prominent.

I just don’t trust them to provide value for money in a crowded media market.

If NZH puts in place a subscription only premium news (and views?) online service they face a real risk – removing their better news from free coverage, they may lose a lot of online readers who aren’t prepared for serious content.

So they may make something out of online subscriptions, while at the same time reduce their free-to-view audience and advertising potential.

Newsroom MediaRoom: Putting a price on trust

The New Zealand Herald has been running a smart advertising campaign for itself involving whole pages of the newspaper with just a few words in the middle emphasising its values of truth, facts and trust.

“In an age of misinformation, it pays to get your news from a source you can trust,” says one, above the gothic ‘H’ of the Herald‘s masthead.

They make you think – about who or what you should trust in the media in this age of misinformation. They should also make you think about that Herald brand, a 156 year-old totem of our media.

The reason you are likely seeing the ads now – after years of some real risk to that brand from its fine journalism being overwhelmed online by a waterfall of average tabloid clickbait – is that the Herald very soon needs to trade on its trustworthiness and factual journalism.

It is about to ask New Zealanders to start paying online for Herald content, which has for many years been entirely free on

Advertising and therefore revenue has plummeted in print versions of newspapers, which has made things very tough to survive in the news business. One reaction has been to cut back on staff – but fewer journalists means fewer serious investigations, less journalism, less serious news. It has become a spiral downwards.

Belatedly introducing a premium subscription service might help the Herald recover, it may stem the bleeding, or it may make things worse.  It is a big risk.

I currently work around international subscription news at the likes of NY Times and Washington Post. I avoid others like The Telegraph. I work around Politik and largely ignore NBR because of their paywalls.

I pay for some media content, but that’s largely entertainment from Sky and Netflix.

I dumped my ODT subscription a couple of years ago, but resumed that six months ago because of it’s good local content. And because It think it is worth supporting independent local media.

Later this month NZME will front up to the market with its annual financial results, and the promise of new revenues from the Premium paywall will hang heavily over chief executive Michael Boggs.

The premium content effort has an editor, Miriyana Alexander, and NZME has been good to its word and recruited a range of top-shelf journalistic talent to feed its new money-maker, while progressively trimming non-premium teams covering sports and photography.

Put your money, though, on the Herald entering the digital subscriptions market very soon. Boggs could even sign up as its first paying guest when he reveals the company’s result in the next few weeks and then watch as the revenues roll in.

I am very unlikely to pay for premium Herald content. I will just look less often at their free content, and otherwise look elsewhere.


Unusually good looking ODT website

The Otago Daily Times has a new look website, and it looks unusually good for a news website.

While the home page packs in a lot of information it looks simple, clean and uncluttered, it’s easy to browse and it has a very modest and unobtrusive amount of advertising. This is unusual for a news website.


If you click on a link to a story this page is also clean and clear, also with relatively unobtrusive advertising. So far very good. But there is a big BUT.

In the top right of the screen are three links:Subscribe |Log in /Register

It looks like they have moved to their promised partial paywall. At this stage I can access news pages but presume there will either be a time limit or a number of links limit.


It is very easy to start your Otago Daily Times home delivery and/or digital edition subscriptions.

From as little as $5.76 per week you can have home delivery six days a week of the ODT plus access to the digital edition.

For each option below, digital access is available for no additional price. If you live outside the delivery area or you do not want to receive a paper copy of the ODT, the digital only subscriptions are available at the same price.

This is where I raise my eyebrows. The digital only subscription is “available at the same price” as the print plus digital.

I guess this is to try and stop people from dropping the print edition and going digital only. So from a retention of circulation point of view it may make sense, but I think it may deter many people from going digital only when it is presumably simpler and cheaper to deliver but costs the same for less.

And something that’s quite peculiar:

If you would like to set up a digital only subscription please call our circulation team…

Ringing up to arrange an online subscription seems bizarre. I can guess again, perhaps they want to force you to talk to a sales person to give them the opportunity to try and sell you up to a full print+digital subscription.

But I think that the people most likely to want a digital only subscription are less likely to bother to ring, especially if they are overseas.


I’ve been able to register a User Accoun…

  • Your account has been granted temporary access. You will need to click on the link in the account verification email to set a password and complete the account registration process.

  • Registration successful. You are now logged in.

but I haven’t received a confirmation email yet so I can’t complete the set up. If I can eventually complete…

If you are a subscriber to print or e-edition you will get unrestricted access to ODT online.

I don’t know what restricted access means.

My initial impression is that the new ODT website is unusually good looking for a news website, but it will take time to see whether the subscription options encourage or deter readers of both print and digital editions.

While I can’t find any news information about the ODT upgrade this story in March indicated where they were headed:

ODT Online relaunching with paywall

The Otago Daily Times plans to introduce a metered paywall for its online content next month as part of an exciting relaunch of its website.

The metered paywall will allow online users to read a certain number of free articles each month, after which they will be required to pay.

Existing print subscribers will get full access to at no additional cost to their print subscription. Subscribers will also continue to enjoy free access to the ODT tablet (iPad/Android) edition, which is a replica of the printed newspaper.

The new website will be optimised to mobile and tablet devices as well as offer a refreshed look and feel.

It looks like this has just been implemented.

Paying for decent journalism

Strong journalism is essential in a strong democracy, but in some respects at least it appears that serious journalism is going down the gurgler.

Even attempts at serious journalism are questionable. Multiple news organisations put significant resources over the last couple of weeks into trying to analyse and report on the Panama papers.

Newsrooms cried wolf, in collaboration with a political activist, and seemingly in collaboration with opposition parties.

The result was overblown, a public turn off and proved and probably achieved very little.

Big news this week (amongst journalists) was the proposed merger of Fairfax Media and APN. Who knows whether that will turn journalism around or just dump a few more reporters on the scrapheap, reduce choice and impose paywalls (which will probably reduce choice further).

Today’s ODT editorial: Adapt, collaborate, or die?

Now of course, in the digital age, there is the expectation from the public that journalists will be everywhere, at all hours, that news, entertainment and opinion should be accessible at the touch of a screen, on a variety of platforms, online, live and instantaneous.

The mediums have changed. Technology has made news-gathering and presentation exciting, innovative, fast-paced, constantly evolving and challenging. It certainly does not allow for complacency, the enemy of good journalism.

Sadly, what has changed is that today’s “audiences” want and expect everything immediately – and for nothing. If they can’t get it for free, they’ll go somewhere they can.

But if good journalism is not valued, there is a huge cost – to media companies, and ultimately to the public they serve. The public often bemoan what is perceived as dropping standards of journalism, yet it is fuelling the change.

As long as the watchdog role of the fourth estate is undervalued in every sense, the democratic ideals of transparency and accountability are at risk. The ultimate winners of this race to the bottom? Those already at the top, who are striving to stay there: the Government, churches, judiciary, police, army, big business.

If a merger allows the new major entity to put up a paywall for digital content, it may safeguard its future – and that of others seeking to do the same, such as this newspaper.

We all need to go back to the future to a certain extent: back to valuing journalism and the work that goes into producing content – and back to paying for it (on whatever platform). Now more than ever, in an age of spin doctors, gatekeepers and public relations staff, we need a healthy, competent, independent and well-resourced media.

The ODT is keen on paywalled news, I thought they had announced they would have moved to subscription news by now.

How much is decent journalism worth?

I used to subscribe to the ODT but stopped that last year when I realised I was hardly ever reading it. I do most of my reading online.

I guess I pay indirectly by having to navigate a mass of advertising online – but I can’t remember if I have ever bought something prompted by an online advertisement.

I’m very practised at ignoring them and I don’t impulse shop anyway. I’m far more inclined towards research shopping online, comparing products and prices, looking for reviews and opinions.

I have subscribed to Consumer online for this purpose, but occasionally  ponder whether that’s good value for money. I think I probably get a return on that investment.

I have subscribed to a couple of overseas publications but underutilised them and am unlikely to do it again, probably.

The problem for me with paying for a print subscription for online access to the ODT is that it would only be a small part of my news sourcing.

If a joint APN/Fairfax media also paywalled that would be an additional cost – and I would still want to view other news sources.

One of the key things I do is research across multiple sources, and I don’t feel inclined to subscribe to a heap of them. Publicly funded and free (currently) RNZ would get more attractive, but I would want much wider coverage.

I value good journalism and good news, and detest a lot of the media junk food.

I’m an on again off again subscriber to Sky and hate all the crap and self promotion (advertising on a subscription service).

I don’t think a bunch of separate news subscriptions are the answer. Especially when they want print prices for online access, that just doesn’t add up to me.

I would happily pay something for good journalism and good news and analysis, up to a point.

But I have seen nothing yet that attracts my custom.

And I really have no idea what would. I haven’t seen any yet that’s attractive.

I’d really like to hear other opinions on this. I think it’s an important issue with no obvious or easy answers.

More on the ODT paywall

Tim Murphy at The Spinoff has more details on the ODT plans for putting up a paywall on a new news website.

There will be a lot of interest in seeing how it goes by other media who contemplate the pros and cons of paywalls versus click based advertising.

Watch this space: ODT takes the paywall plunge

From mid-April, Dunedin’s leading newsroom will introduce a metered paywall offering between 15 and 30 free stories a month before readers have to cough up about $27 a month as a subscriber. Print subscribers already pay that figure monthly and will get the digital subscription free.

Charging the same amount as the print version (whose subscribers also get an online subscription) may be aimed at bolstering print circulation but it doesn’t make sense.

It will be the first major news publisher in New Zealand to do so, following many in the United States, Europe and Australia. And it could be in the right place, at the right time, to make it work.

Two smaller New Zealand regional papers have introduced paywalls. TheAshburton Guardian makes visitors to its Guardian Online site pay from the get-go to read its stories. The Gisborne Herald allows seven free reads of stories before seeking a subscription payment.

The Listener and NBR already operate with subscription paywalls.

The two big players in this country,, owned by Fairfax, and, run by NZME, have vowed not to go there any time soon with paywalls – both are intent on earning money from their digital content by attracting advertisers through ever-rising audience numbers.

Which means a move towards more click bait trivia.

Its chief, Sir Julian Smith, leads a business which still has a total editorial staff of almost 80 and an overall headcount of 400 or so – a big presence in both senses in Dunedin and the province.

Sir Julian will be hoping a Meclab survey finding from the US this month on willingness to pay – that “respondents point above all to the ability to gain access to exclusive content unavailable from other news orgs, including arts and culture and local news” – will be reflected in the south.

Everyone further north will be watching.

Will enough of those in the south pay?

ODT being paywalled

Hamish McNeilly (@southernscoop) has revealed on Twitter:

ODT is launching new website in April with metered paywall. Free to subscribers. “Moving away from the free online model”.

It’s a fascinating move.

McNeilly is (or was) and ODT reporter.

Not many articles written about Dunedin by ODT journos ? Most APN, NZPA or Reuters besides handed Press releases


It’s a well regarded paper that covers local news well. They go to court, council meetings, liquor hearings etc

Yes, the ODT is generally well regarded, but I don’t know if it is well enough regarded to survive off a subscription model. They have tried something like it before, and casual access was just too awkward and expensive to bother with.

Where are you seeing this? Got a link?

Nolink! Just a copy of a subscriber letter.

Bryce Edwards:

Some extra online features coming too, apparently. Should be interesting.

For me it will depend on the features and the cost. Unless it stacks up it will wall me off from local content, except for the articles that are reposted at NZH.

Their current website probably doesn’t generate enough clicks or ad revenue to encourage them to try that model, but it’s not a very inviting website, nor does it encourage interaction. Posted comments can take hours to appear.

One risk for the ODT will be providing more of an opening for alternate news providers like Stuff and radio news.

Stuff – no paywall but pay for premium?

Stuff report on their own plans to try and make some money out of online content – Stuff looks at premium membership.

Fairfax Media’s news website may not be considering a paywall, but options to offer a premium membership service to New Zealand online readers are “really quite exciting”, says Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood.

I’m really excited to know what the difference is between a paywall and paying for “a premium membership service”.

NBR and the Listener already run models that involve partial public access with more being available to paying subscribers.

A major problem with this approach is that their best content is the least accessible. Most people choose not to pay, they simply look elsewhere, so ‘premium’ journalism gets a greatly reduced audience.

And worse – their best stories get picked up by other media who get much wider coverage offering it for free. The New Zealand news market is very small.

But maybe they aren’t talking about paying for news.

New Zealand chief executive Simon Tong was looking at a membership model and monetising the audience in different ways.

“That’s something Simon and his team are working up,” said Hywood.

“You can provide a whole range of services to members. It’s really up to your imagination and your ability to produce product.”

And that product has to compete with the wide variety of free products available online.

The only subscription service I pay for is Consumer, and I’m about to stop that as I get little from them that I can’t get elsewhere (their pay content offers too little value).

Perhaps Stuff can move to magazine/entertainment.celebrity type pay content, that’s where most interest and least thought about value seems to be. MacMedia sort of stuff.