German newspaper headed for paywall


NewspaperDie Welt is set to put content behind a paywall before year’s end. Its CEO believes that people are beginning to understand that the “free beer for everyone” era of the internet is winding down, and that the paper’s competitors in Germany will follow suit.

According to a Reuters report, the plan is being set in motion my Mathias Doepfner, head of the company which owns and operates Die Welt, Axel Springer.

Doepfner is under no illusions that his move will pay off – he readily acknowledges the risk involved – but said he is more optimistic about the move now than he was a year or two ago.
Getting a subscription fee from readers is a no-brainer – that will obviously have a positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

There is another, perhaps more important benefit, however. The paid subscribers are valued by advertisers to a much greater extent than the free readers who show up at a newspaper’s website without the need to make any personal investment.

It is Doepfner’s believe that 100K paid subscribers will ultimately be worth as much as 1M unpaid readers.

He believes an impediment to gaining paid subs is having complicated procedures in place to sign up in the first place. The simpler the subscription process is, the better the results will be.

According to Reuters, Axel Springer currently attributes 38% of its income to its digital operations. The company wants that up to 50% by the end of the decade.

RBR-TVBR observation: Print has been watching its traditional revenue streams dry up – but the search for fresh streams has been vexingly difficult. That’s why RBR-TVBR has also been experimenting for some time with a paywall for premium content.

We believe Doepfner is on to something – it’s not just about the number of clicks a particular article earns, it’s also about the quality of the clicks. That’s one reason Wall Street Journal has had the most success with a paid model – it offers something of perceived value to an elite clientele, and since not just anybody subscribers to that publication, its readership has value to advertisers.

The publications that succeed will be the ones that find a way to translate the WSJ model to a general audience. It should be possible – remember that even when newspapers were doing just fine, they weren’t read by everybody. The people who did read them tended to be more engaged in their community than non-readers – and that should have some value.

Perhaps the path to a successful model for general-readership print news will be blazed over the course of 2013 in Germany.