The following is the full transcript of Belinda Alzner's interview with The Globe and Mail publisher Phillip Crawley on the newspaper's upcoming implementation of a paywall.

 

The following is the full transcript of Belinda Alzner's interview with The Globe and Mail publisher Phillip Crawley on the newspaper's upcoming implementation of a paywall.

 

J-Source: First I’d like to talk about the logistics of the paywall. What is going to count as a “read article”? Is it a click on an article, or is it counted after a certain amount of time that is spent on the page?

Phillip Crawley: No it’s the number of articles. I think that if you’ve used The New York Times’ site, you’ll be familiar with the kind of process that we’ve obviously studied how other newspapers have been down this route. Whether it’s the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times – just to give a few examples – we’ve studied how they’ve often experimented with different levels of where you hit the paywall – different metrics. But as we’ve pointed out, the people who just want to look at the home page or the section fronts, look at readers letters, they’re not going to count towards hitting the 10 on the metre. People will get reminded as they work their way through and will be told that they’ve reached a certain level so they will be aware that they are getting close to their limit

Right, but I mean – is it as soon as you click on something that it will count as read or will you have a few seconds to look at it and say “I want to read this” or “I don’t want to read this” and have that not count toward your free limit?

I think it’s basically once you open that article, that’s it.

You mentioned that you obviously studied other paywalls. What are some of the things that The Globe and Mail has learned from what The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and even in Canada, what Postmedia implemented this summer?

I think what generally the nature of players who have got their powerful brand like The New York Times and Financial Times, they have found that a lot of their customers are willing to pay – The New York Times’ experience was that existing subscribers were happy to go along with the paywall, signup etcetera, because obviously it was a good deal if you were already a print subscriber, but there was also a large group of people who were using The New York Times’ website without being newspaper subscribers, so some of them were pretty quick to sign up to the kind of offers that were made by the New York Times because they could see the added value. In fact, what’s happened with The New York Times is that their Sunday newspaper sales have gone up because people were able to buy a digital subscription which included delivery of the Sunday newspaper in print form. So they’ve actually seen an increase in their sales of the printed copy as an add-on extra.

I’ve been reading through a lot of the questions that have been asked today and a lot of the responses are noting that things are, “as of now.” What response and room to pivot have you allowed?

We’ve given ourselves plenty of flexibility to react to market conditions. We’re not locked in. The marketing people at The Globe have done a lot of study on this – we’ve also conducted a lot of research of our own and testing reader attitudes – both print and online – and we have a pretty good idea of what people’s sensitivities are, their proclivities, what it is that they are likely to want to pay for and of course, at this stage, we’re talking about the concept, but as of next week you actually get to see the new content and the new tools that we’ve also got that isn’t there at the present time. So, there is certainly new offerings in terms of content, there is also tools including our new Dashboard tool, which I think is going to be a very popular, handy tool for people to organize their personal preferences in terms of what they want to see, what they want to be reminded about, that is a very neat tool.

Yeah, so could you explain to me how the Dashboard will work?

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Whatever device you’ve got, whatever screen you’re using, it can sit down the on the right-hand side and you can set your – let’s say you’re an avid follower of certain companies. You can very easily customize that so that you will get alerts when the story pops up. You can have your favourites locked in there, and it’s pretty easily adjustable. It also works across whichever particular device you’re using – whether you’re using a laptop, a desktop, an iPad, whatever.

You took the same approach that a lot of the other newspapers with paywalls have done in that it’s intentionally porous for social media and search pages. Can you just explain the decision making process that went into that?

I think what we’re trying to do is make sure that we do not restrict our own ability to grow. You know, social media is a very popular form of access, so we don’t want to choke that off any more than we want to lose traffic numbers,  which will obviously affect what we can do from an ad revenue point of view. We don’t want to do what the Times of London did when they put up a paywall, which was not porous or flexible. They lost a significant amount of their traffic and they lost their ad revenue.

That sort of speaks to my next question. There’s been talk about the fact that referral traffic – that is, traffic driven from sources such as social media and search – is actually growing. If that trend continues, and social sharing does end up driving more traffic than other sources, will that undermine or help this paywall model that you have?

Well, I think we’ve got numbers of our own that show how significant or not significant the percentage share that a particular platform delivers and there are some areas where we would be more watchful than others on how that is going to play out, but as I said to you before, we have built this in a way that we can be flexible and responsive to what we see happening in the market.

That’s pretty well all the questions I had. Is there anything else you wanted to add about the paywall?

I think this is a very important step forward in the business evolution of The Globe. We’ve had digital subscriptions for a long time but it’s a relatively small part of our business – we’ve had Globe Investor Gold for 10 years. People have been paying monthly for access to live data feeds. These are people who are obviously very focused on investment. This is broadening out the scope in a big way, but we certainly have had a loyal subscriber base, paying us money for monthly subscriptions for the last decade. What we’re doing is taking this to a much broader canvas.

Oh, I did have one more question actually — regarding app and mobile readers. The subscription is the same for them as well? $20 per month for non-print subscribers?

Yeah, no matter what device you’re consuming on. We’ve got existing deals with a few; if you’re using Globe to Go, that’s still there.

So basically you’re signing up for the Globe Unlimited account, and you can use it on any device?

Yes, that’s correct.