The sale of the Financial Times this week and potential sale of sister publication The Economist highlight how successful newspaper paywalls can be.
But those two belong to a small group of (mainly business) news publications that have had success transitioning from print to digital subscriptions, helped by having readers with expense accounts and a strong business need for timely news. Most newspapers that have set up paywalls need to convince fickle, freeloading consumers to cough up. It’s a strategy that’s not working as well as they might have hoped, as NiemanLab illustrates in a story about the digital struggles of two Hawaiian newspapers, the Honolulu Civil Beat and Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
The trajectory of each publication’s paywall appears to be mimicking industry-wide trends of slow paywall growth: It looks as if there’s a limit in the number of people who are willing to pay for news online.
The AAM audit reports of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser doesn’t just highlight the trend of stagnating subscriptions, however.
Buried in the numbers is evidence of another trend having a huge impact on the digital news industry — note the green line, below: