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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another


Why the Wall went up at the Post and other Canwest pubs

Another great article in the Online Journalism Review. I had been baffled by the Canwest papers' decision to put their web content behind a wall and to offer digital editions which are essentially kludgey PDF like things which no sane person would waste the time to download, even with a cable modem. All is explained:
The main reason behind the recent increase in the number of subscription-based digital editions: The Audit Bureau of Circulations -- which sets the rules on what can be counted as paid circulation -- decided in 2001 to allow newspapers to count paid digital edition subscriptions in their circulation totals.
online journalism review
Which, putting it crudely, means that even if the 6 million uniques a month to the Canwest sites before the wall went up drop to 600,000, it just doesn't matter so long as they can sell a few thousand online subscriptions to their digital edition.

Darren Barefoot points to Vin Crosbies' earlier piece on the awful conversion rates from free to paid
My study of these and others indicates the average free-to-paid conversion rate for general interest news sites at between 0.4 and 0.7 percent of unique users. Woeful! If a print publication sent free editions, then tried to convert consumers to paying subscribers and got that response level, the plug would be pulled.

Consumers will pay for online content. In my last column and my look at the AOL Time Warner merger debacle, I outlined why most won't pay for traditional content shoveled online. A tiny jolt of subscription revenue may temporarily make publishers feel good, but walling content behind paid barriers drives most consumers to competitors.
But are those conversion rates so awful if they count as paid circulation. 1% of 6 million is 60,000 and in a tough market that matters.