According to this article posted by Neiman Journalism Lab the Boston Globe will be going to a metered paywall (like most of the newspaper world) moving away from the very hard paywall they have had in place since the launch of the site.
I love that the Globe gave the hard paywall a try. Someone had to and they were in a good position as a major daily with a lot of proprietary content. I am also glad that it clearly didn’t work. Not because I want to see them fail, but because I have always said paywalls like this don’t work on the web and most likely never will. The days of a newspaper being the only game in town are over and they are never coming back the key now for newspapers is to realize this and start moving forward. A metered paywall is actually a great option for papers as they can use them to collect valuable data about their audience and translate this into targeted advertising opportunities for their clients.
In a perfect world this is how I see a metered paywall working. Everyone gets 3-5 articles free per month those users may never even see that you have a paywall of any kind in place. This is needed for search traffic and allowing for the long tail of a lot of news stories. The next tier requires the user to provide some basic information maybe their full name, email, and zipcode, and they get 10-15 articles extra per month so a total of 13-20 articles. If they go over that they have to take a brief survey or maybe just answer one multiple choice question and they get 5-10 more articles. In the background though the site is tracking who is sharing things via social media and tracking the amount of traffic it receives from those shares thus identifying their most influential readers and these readers are never burdened with any kind of distraction. I also think that there should be a paid level but I don’t think this paid level is for normal web content it is more of a membership with benefits above and beyond the news and yes the most influential users will get free access to this as well.
Why? Well the paradigm has shifted. The reader is the new editor, most people rely on their social stream to curate the news so rather than punish our most loyal readers we should reward them, and rather than charge a fee which online becomes a hurdle that most users will just click away from (or figure out a way around) we gather information that both allows us to write the stories that most matter to our audience and better target our advertisers messages making them more valuable.