The only newspaper websites that have made any real money through paywalls have been the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, according to Alan D. Mutter, a columnist for Editor & Publisher as well as author of the blog Reflections of a Newsosaur.
Nearly all of the local newspapers' websites, including the Joplin Globe have pay walls that limit readers to a certain number of articles per month, with most of their regular readers coming from those who are subscribing to the print edition and get the website along with the package.
While this has helped the newspapers to make some money by jacking up their subscription rates for their print editions so they can continue to make money even while their total number of subscribers dwindles, it has not done mucb for their digital readership.
Mutter makes the following recommendation:
Now that publishers have conditioned their print subscribers to paying an ever-greater share of the costs of producing and delivering the paper, they should declare victory and turn their attention to building robust and loyal digital audiences. They’ll need ever more digital readers to sustain their franchises as their superannuated print readers – the median readership at most papers is 60-plus – head toward the demographic cliff.
The digital pivot won’t happen very effectively if casual readers encounter pop-ups that either block, or threaten to throttle, access to the content they want to view. With so much news available for free on the web, paywalls are distinctly inhospitable – especially the young cosnsumers coveted by publishers and their advertisers. Repelled once or twice by paywalls, most incidental readers depart and seldom return.
As much as editors and publishers believe readers venerate their brands, the truth is that most of the traffic to a typical news site comes from incidental readers steered to the site via social media, a search request or another external source.
Younger readers are not willing to pay exorbitant prices, or for that matter, any prices, for newspaper subscriptions. By putting annoying roadblocks in their way, the Joplin Globe and other newspapers are hastening their journey down the path to extinction.