Will Time Inc.’s Paywalls Drive Readers Toward Print?

TimeCoverEarlier this week we talked about paywall strategies and what’s really behind them. In that article we mentioned that Time Inc. is planning to roll much of their content behind paywalls this summer.

“Time Inc. is no longer willing to give its content away for free,” notes Medialife Magazine.

“The magazine company is rolling out a metered paywall on Entertainment Weekly, one of its top websites, echoing the move by hundreds of newspapers over the past few years to start charging for content online,” the article continues.

This move has attracted a lot of attention in the media, including an article in CNN that declares the publisher is “making its web sites more like its print magazines.”

The publisher has announced that People, Time, Money and Real Simple will “follow Entertainment Weekly’s lead later this summer,” writes Brian Stelter in CNN Money.

“Time Inc.’s announcement about it on Friday illustrates the media industry’s determination to rely less on advertising revenue and more on subscriptions,” Stelter continues. “Some analysts are skeptical that large numbers of web visitors will pay for news and entertainment, but that isn’t dissuading publishers like Time Inc. from trying.”

As publishers like Time Inc. institute new ways to turn website visitors into paying customers, we have to imagine that the printed magazine becomes that much more attractive. In other words, if they have to pay to read, they’ll likely pay for a format they prefer – and most readers do prefer print.

The Time Inc. paywall model for Entertainment Weekly plays right into this:

“After reading 10 articles on EW.com, the site will prompt visitors to register in order to keep reading,” writes Michael Sebastian in Advertising Age.

“After the 15th article, they’ll be asked to pay. They can fork over $1.99 for monthly access to EW.com and the digital replica magazine, $20 for the full year or $25 for a year’s worth of full digital access as well as the weekly print magazine,” Sebastian continues.

We’ll be watching as this unfolds over the summer, but I think it’s safe to say that the digital news industry is undergoing some serious disruption.