The Globe and Mail will launch a paywall on Oct. 22, charging non-print subscribers who wish to access more than 10 articles a month on theglobeandmail.com. Belinda Alzner explains what content will remain free, why the paper took a “social media porous” approach and what exclusive features will be available to subscribers.
The Globe and Mail will launch a paywall on Oct. 22, charging non-print subscribers who wish to access more than 10 articles a month on theglobeandmail.com.
The paywall — as well as a few details about it, including the fact that it would be taking a metered approach — was announced in May, but the costs and specifics surrounding it had not been publicly available until today.
All users will be able to access 10 free articles per month. Anything more than that will require a Globe Unlimited account. Those who currently subscribe to The Globe’s print edition five or six days per week or to GlobeInvestorGold or GlobePlus will receive their Globe Unlimited account for no additional cost. Those with weekend-only subscriptions will be asked to pay $4.99 per month for an Unlimited account, and all non-print subscribers will be asked to pay $19.99 per month after a 99-cent one-month trial.
Once a reader has a Globe Unlimited account, he or she will be able to access content on The Globe’s website on any device.
“I think this is a very important step forward in the business evolution of The Globe,” publisher Phillip Crawley told J-Source in an interview, noting that the newspaper has offered digital monthly subscriptions for ten years in the form of the Globe Investor Gold. “What we’re doing [with Globe Unlimited] is taking this to a much broader canvas.”
In a larger industry picture
The Globe is but the latest newspaper to ask readers to pay for its online content. The New York Times is widely cited as an industry success story, having surpassed 500,000 digital subscribers this year, and the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times are two of the other publications’ paywall models that The Globe studied before implementing its own. Postmedia moved The Ottawa Citizen, the Vancouver Sun, and the Vancouver Province behind paywalls over the summer, more than a year after doing so with The Montreal Gazette and Victoria Times-Colonist (the latter of which Postmedia has since sold to Glacier Media).
“We’ve seen hundreds of newspapers — quality newspapers — moving to a pay model in the last 18 months and by and large … it’s working well for quality publications,” editor-in-chief John Stackhouse told Hannah Sung in a video on The Globe’s website on Monday. “It allows us to put more resources into digital journalism – for the running of our website – but also for the creation of original journalism which you’ll see on our digital platforms.”
When announcing the move to a subscription model in May, Crawley told employees that the accelerated need for the paywall stemmed from an unpredictable advertising market.
The importance of social media
However, there are ways around this, and The Globe is still counting on readers finding a way to the website even if they don’t have a Globe Unlimited subscription. The Globe’s metered paywall will take the intentionally “porous” approach to social media and search that other subscription models in the industry have used. In essence, if a reader arrives at an article on theglobeandmail.com via social media or search engine, it will not count toward his or her 10 free articles.
“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,” Crawley said. “What we’re trying to do is make sure that we do not restrict our own ability to grow.”
“We don’t want to do what The Times of London did when they put up a paywall, which was not porous or flexible,” he continued. “They lost a significant amount of their traffic and they lost their ad revenue.”
In November 2010, The Globe’s then-media reporter Susan Krashinsky reported that though the Times had surpassed 100,000 online subscriptions, its website traffic had dropped from more than six million unique visitors a month before the paywall, to less than 2.5 million after it.
Some content to remain free[node:ad]
Also excluded from users’ 10-article limit is home page and section page visits, video content, Letters to the Editor, weather, horoscopes, and stock quote pages.
Anjali Kapoor, The Globe’s director of digital news strategy, said that it was a conscious decision to exclude these service-oriented areas that drive engagement from the meter.
“We’re asking people to pay for the valuable content of our journalism,” Kapoor told J-Source. “That includes everything we do that is unique.”
The engagement aspect is an important part of the subscription model and something The Globe has been working on as it evolves in the digital sphere. “We’ve been talking to our readers for many years, obviously, but in the past three years it’s been an ongoing conversation,” she said.
Kapoor pointed to The Globe’s Our Time to Lead series, which most recently has focused on education, as one area that has evolved and benefited from engagement. “It is something that allows people to not just read, but interact, and see their interaction as an action. Whether it shows up in the paper, whether we point them to donate somewhere or connect them to other people,” Kapoor said.
The Globe’s subscription model will lend itself to both the paper’s dedicated, engaged audience and its casual readers, Kapoor says. “We have seen where our loyal readers really shine and where they want to converse,” Kapoor said. “We’re always going to have our non-subscriber audience that are going to come to the site to peruse and look and might not ever hit the 10-article limit, and then we have the people who engage every day.”
“I think it’s a nice balance,” she said.
New online features for subscribers
Subscribers will have access to a couple of new tools on The Globe’s website. One of them is Dashboard, which users can personalize with their preferences. The Dashboard will sit in the right-hand side of the screen of any device, Crawley said. “Let’s say you’re an avid follower of certain companies,” he explained. “You can very easily customize [Dashboard] 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.”
The Globe has created an extensive FAQ section surrounding Globe Unlimited, Dashboard, and other questions readers may have about the new subscription model as well as a Globe Unlimited Twitter account to answer questions on the social media website.
As with most things in online journalism, The Globe has allowed for room to pivot and for response to the paywall. “We’ve given ourselves plenty of flexibility to react to market conditions. We’re not locked in,” Crawley said, though noting “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.”