There's nothing like a little paywall debate to get the blood stirred up on a Sunday afternoon before Christmas, it seems. I started things off with a critical tweet about a Bloomberg story by Edmund Lee on how the New York Times paywall was working "better than anyone had guessed," which I contrasted with a post of mine about the decline in traffic to the NYT site (as measured by comScore) and what appeared to be a corresponding decline in advertising revenue -- including digital revenue, which is rising just about everywhere else.
Edmund is right, of course -- he did mention this in his story, using numbers from an analyst (which of course are estimates). And so I acknowledged that "ignores" was too strong a word -- but still, his piece made it sound as though all you have to do is put up a paywall and your problems are solved, which I think is a Pollyanna sort of viewpoint.
At which point, Josh Sternberg of Digiday noted that ad rates haven't gone up at the NYT, as detailed in his recent post; http://www.digiday.com/publishers/paywalls-dont-bump-ad-prices/, even though that was the assumption on the part of many paywall advocates -- that a paying audience would be worth more to advertisers.
At this point, I made the same point I've tried to make before about paywalls -- that they aren't a solution for everyone, and that even for those where such a strategy is working, like the NYT, they can't be the entire strategy
Raju Narisetti of the Wall Street Journal said that one rationale for paywalls is that it allows newspapers to learn more about their readers, and thus hopefully target ads better -- which is part of why I am in favor of membership-style approaches rather than blanket paywalls.
I noted that the latest estimates are that the online advertising market grew by 18% in the third quarter to $9.3 billion, and yet few newspapers -- including the NYT -- have seen anything like that kind of increase. Why?