More on paywalls

I don’t think there’s much of a future for paywalls (where punters are charged to access online journlism). There’s an article on the BBC here, which seems to suggest the future is charging for content. I think it may work for a while, but then you’ll start to lose traffic that you never regain.

The most important thing is reach. You want to have as many readers as possible. Everything else is secondary.

5 comments to More on paywalls

  • Hmm. could you expand on that?

    The most important thing is not really reach, it’s being able to pay the rent. (In a manner of speaking.) You can’t live on having many readers. You live on revenue streams, making money.

    Consumer magazines (that have had a tendency to pay for articles and used to commission articles from some authors who had gained online reputation) are struggling. Paying less, commissioning less.

    Wine books are almost defunct. (I’m exaggerating, but do you remember the year when to book rewards in the UK were canceled because of a lack of new books?) And did you ever make much money on books?

    So, how do you see the business model? Where will the money come from? Ads on the site? Sponsorships from wine producers?…

    With such a sweeping statement “everything else [but reach] is secondary” it would be interesting to know your thoughts on the real issue!

    Unless, of course, you see wine writing as a domain for the independently wealthy or the non-professional hobby writer.

  • Philip

    I read your site, but I skip everything that isn’t about wine, a subject I am interested in and you know much more about than me.
    When you write about other subjects in which I have no interest – football, children, dogs – I skip.
    I would pay to read your site, providing it was only about wine. I do pay to read Jancis Robinson’s purple pages, because it is written by people who know more than me, and most of the forum contributions (unlike eParker) are by people who know more than me, and who are aware that most tasting notes are a waste of time (
    So I’ll pay for information (“news you can use”) and opinions from competent professionals about subjects that interest me, and for the pleasure of having no adverts.
    The Times and the Sunday Times have, over the last 20 years,steadily abandoned this category of material (we used to call it “journalism”), so I doubt the new site will flourish behind a pay wall.
    Reach may make you famous. It doesn’t pay the bills. Tom Cruise is famous. Acting pays his bills.

  • Per, your questions are very good. And they encapsulate the key issues here.

    I think a good deal of wine writing is being done by people who don’t need to earn a proper living for it.

    It will be rare in the future for people to make a living solely from writing about wine.

    In the future I think there will be fewer professional wine writers. But the opportunities will be there for those who can elbow out the rest by means of their reputations and followings.

  • On the other hand, there aren’t that many people today who actually do earn a living from wine writing. Even today, for many it represents a little bit of additional income or is just plain fun.

    I think you may be dismissing too easily the possibility that people actually might be willing to pay for quality contents (as Philip suggests). One of the advantages with ‘online’ is that it costs little to produce (apart from actually writing the material). This means that you don’t have to have huge numbers of paying readers to make it interesting. Every single one of the paying readers is actually positive margin. Not so with printed media.

    It will be interesting to see what happens in the future.

    To some extent it poses the question, does quality pay or does quantity pay (indirectly through eyeballs)?

  • People are motivated by personal achievement and recognition by their peers, not money. I used to visit Jancis’ site daily when the site was more accessible now I’d even forgotten her site exited until Philip mentioned it.

    I am far more interested to hear what a knowledgeable person thinks on a subject, if they are not commercially driven to express their opinion.

    There will always be free content on the Internet. Long lived the Internet!
    It will eventually make money obsolete.

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