FT may offer new pay model for online content

Newspapers, buffeted by this year’s downturn in print advertising revenue, are increasingly looking to new online revenue strategies. The Financial Times (FT) is the latest example of this push for online cash, with its announcement that it is considering a “pay-as-you-read” model for its content on the Web.

The news and business daily already offers a part-paid model, where users can access a certain amount of content per month before being asked to register and then, with more stories, to pay. Rob Grimshaw, managing director of FT.com, indicated in an interview with PaidContent:UK that the new, pay-per-article model would go into effect within the next 12 months. The actual price of each article has yet to be determined, and a few different price points will probably be tested. Grimshaw added that ease of use for readers is a critical component to the micropayment plan.

News Corp., whose Wall Street Journal also already operates an effective, partial paywall, is also planning to seek more revenue through paid online content. According to reports, all of the company’s newspaper sites are expected to have paywalls in place by next summer. The model for the sites is expected to resemble that of the Journal, leaving some content free and saving select stories and tools for paying customers only.

“The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive methods of distribution,” said News Corp.’s chairman and CEO, Rupert Murdoch, on a call with investors last week. “But it has not made content free. Accordingly, we intend to charge for all our news Web sites.”

Some analysts doubt that extra revenue from paywalls will be enough to remedy newspapers’ downward revenue slide. However, new data from the Newspaper Association of America shows some hope for online content providers, indicating that traffic to newspaper Web sites is growing in the US. More than 70 million people — 35.9% of US Internet users — visited a newspaper Web site in June, marking a 7% increase over June 2008. Page views and number of sessions also increased, by about 11.5% a piece.

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