The era of the online news pay wall seemed to peak in the middle of the last decade, when major players like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal locked up their content until subscribers bit the bullet and proffered the cash.
For the Times, the "premium" model lasted two years before they killed it, in which it took in roughly $10 million a year. The Journal still uses a pay wall, and has seen more success — a report from 2007 says the newspaper drew 227,000 paying subscribers, cashing in to the tune of $65 million per year.
So far, the Colorado Springs Business Journal is the only local media to try charging for its online content — they initiated the change July 30 of last year, charging $75 per year for online-only, and $98 per year for online and print access. And while the paper has declined to release actual numbers, it seems the results are better than hoped for.
"We experienced some drop-off, as expected, but not nearly as much as we anticipated or as much as other papers have seen," writes managing editor Rob Larimer in an e-mail to the Indy today.
Editor Allen Greenberg concurs.
"We did not expect to lose very many online readers and, in fact, we did not," he writes. "In part because we’ve worked hard to deliver a full-fledged report on business happenings in the Springs."
A column from Greenberg (log-in required) introducing the concept included this:
There was really no choice, because while information might want to be free, it’s also expensive. Reporters need to be paid, folks. ...
The good news for those unwilling or unable to buy a subscription is that access to a few areas of the site will remain free. For example, you’ll still be able to read some of the stories — though certainly not all — that we post over the course of every business day. You’ll also be able to continue reading the ever-popular, always-controversial John Hazlehurst.
Of course, Hazlehurst has since departed from the paper, a move which figures to hurt the Journal, as two of its top four search terms, according to Alexa.com, are "john hazlehurst: journalist csbj" and "john hazlehurst."
Coincidentally, the New York Times reported yesterday that limited pay walls, in which readers are charged according to how many articles they read each month, are seeing limited success in studies.