Today the Washington Post announced that they will put up a Paywall. Of course this interests me, but not as a point of vindication — because I think the Washington Post will likely fail in their paywall foray.
The problem with paywalls and big media is that big media lacks compelling content. The majority of the content I find on the Washington Post is also content that I could find, like or, better versions of on another site for free. This is the paywall problem.
A paywall only works if the content that exists behind the paywall, only exists behind the paywall.
This is the core issue with any site that does a paywall, including this site. If all I continued to do when I put up the paywall was link to articles that every other tech blogger was linking to, adding only my own particular brand of snark — well in that scenario you have something that’s not really worth paying for. You can get those same links and similar snark from another ad-supported site — screw paying this guy.
That’s the issue that faces The Washington Post.
With the model as the Post described it, they must be outputting more than twenty compelling articles each month (first twenty articles are free) — and those articles that exist beyond the twenty must also be worth paying for. Because a good article is not something many are willing to pay for, your writing needs to then be so great, or so unique, that all of a sudden it is worth paying for.
Essentially, news is out, and opinion is in. That means it’s not just twenty good news articles, it’s specifically more than twenty good opinion articles that need to be produced at the highest levels of “interestingness” before you can get people to pay. And I’m sorry, but I just don’t think the Washington Post can do it.
That’s a huge wall to scale for the Post and a huge ask of their readership. When what you mostly write about can be found on just about any other news site people have a hard time paying for that content.