The Boston Globe will soon start charging for online content, Eric Convey reports in the Boston Business Journal. As with plans being developed by its corporate cousin the New York Times, the Globe’s paywall will be deliberately porous so that bloggers and their readers can share a certain number of stories each month. Heavy users, though, will be expected to cough up.
I predict, at best, very limited success — so limited that it may prove not worth doing. The Times Co. reported today that its revenue from print advertising and circulation continues to fall, but that online ad revenues are up by 14 percent compared to a year ago. Yes, the overall volume is lower, but online is where the growth is.
Rupert Murdoch’s Times of London lost between two-thirds and 90 percent of its online readers when it erected an admittedly more rigid paywall earlier this year. The Globe’s website, Boston.com, draws about 5 million unique visitors each month. The paywall could wind up alienating readers and advertisers alike.
I’d keep Boston.com free but get rid of the “Today’s Globe” section, which is a perfect replica of the print edition. Post most Globe stories to Boston.com, but maybe not all of them. Make sure readers get the message that the Globe and Boston.com are not the same. And reserve the full contents of the Globe itself for paid platforms — not just print, but mobile, iPad, Reader, Kindle and the like.
The Boston Herald already does a good job of differentiating its print and online editions. And the Globe has a greater opportunity, because the Herald is lagging in alternative electronic platforms.
More from Ralph Ranalli at BeatthePress.org, whose post alerted me to this story. Also, another Times Co. property, the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, started charging for online content last month.