Haaretz digital paywall rebuttal (part 2)
By Lior Kodner
For part one, click here
Following in the footsteps of the New York Times, FT, The Wall Street Journal and other major international publications, in May 2012 Haaretz shifted its digital strategy and began offering digital subscriptions. We asked our loyal readers to register in order to read up to ten free articles a month, or to pay $95 a year for unlimited access.
In the last seven months more than 135,000 users have registered with Haaretz, while the number of digital subscribers is a five-digit figure. Since access through Google, Facebook and Twitter is largely free, the number of unique users has remained stable. Overall, in the last seven months the advertising revenues have also remained stable, while the subscriptions added income.
Our innovative digital strategy received praise and attention on Harvard Journalism School’s prestigious Niemanlab blog in September 2012. “We can derive larger, even universal, truths from the Haaretz experience,” wrote Ken Doctor. The article goes into the “If you don’t charge them, they won’t pay” mantra, discusses the value of building a database of readers, lauds adding mobile entities with iPhone, iPad and Android editions, and emphasizes that newspapers must “back up your offer with…journalism.”
Hundreds of items are published on Haaretz platforms every single day. Over the past eighteen months, Haaretz has added editors, writers and contributors in Israel, the U.S., the U.K. and across the Jewish world. All create original material for digital readers. A dozen bloggers enrich the site’s content.
Haaretz’s example can be treated as a test case, which proves that frequent consumers are willing to pay for digital content if it’s branded, upgraded and more suited to their needs than the free alternatives.
* Lior Kodner is the Head of Digital in Haaretz.