Don’t Call it a Paywall

Andrew Sullivan’s ‘The Dish’ is leaving The Daily Beast to strike out on their own, with no ads and a paywall (which works much the same as The New York Times’ paywall). Nothing new, but (and it’s hard not to do this) Sullivan, of course, thinks this is a “new” idea.

I love Sullivan’s paywall misdirection too:

There is no paywall. Just a freemium-based meter.

Yep and I don’t have to pay for my gas either. Instead I just pay to use the pump.

Let’s make this really simple for all publishers: if a reader has to pay to access any portion of your content, then you have a “paywall” in place. Plain and simple: The Dish is getting a paywall. Shawn Blanc has a podcast that has a paywall around it.

Now, I for one, don’t think there’s a damned thing wrong with this — but “paywall” is one of those words that marketing types spend months coming up with clever name-arounds for, so they never have to say what they really have: A paywall.

I’m not a Dish reader 1, but I do wish them the best and by all accounts it’s off to a great start. At $19.99 a year this seems like a steal for the amount of work they do.

I had a quick chat over email with David Holmes, writing for Pando Daily, about this and I think he sums up his article perfectly:

I’m not saying aggregation, when done right, doesn’t have value, [a]nd Sullivan and his crew are among the best at what they do. But oxygen has value too, and no one pays for that. We only pay for what we can’t get for free.

The struggle with any paywall is convincing people to pay while keeping some free content. This is the same problem I have: Subscriber growth was all but flat last month, while I’ve been working harder and harder to produce better content (and spending money doing so). That’s not a complaint, it’s a cold hard fact about paywalls.

Paywalls are just harder than advertising. But if you can make them work they will eventually pay better and better with each new reader. The same can’t be said for advertising.

The trick is convincing people to pay for what they previously got — or can get — for free. I do that by charging for timely access to articles, whereas The Dish will limit the amount you can read each month. Both approaches can work but are harder to make work than an all-out Paywall like The Financial Times.

An all-out paywall is something I have seriously considered. I decided against it for one simple reason: I’d rather have my work read by more people than make more money.

  1. Nor do I subscribe to Dish TV.
Originally posted for members on: January 3, 2013
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