The Globe and Mail’s digital subscription plan has signed up about 80,000 readers since beginning last October, a higher number than the newspaper’s executives said they had forecast.
The results, revealed to Globe employees on Thursday, represent the first public disclosure of the paper’s highly touted attempt to bring in subscription revenue from its website and other digital platforms.
While The Globe is privately held, the foray into digital subscriptions is being closely watched by others in the industry, including the Toronto Star, which is preparing to launch its own paywall in the coming months.
“We’re pleased that it’s gone as well as it has in the first phase,” said Phillip Crawley, The Globe’s publisher. Still, he cautioned, “We’re going to need to keep improving both the content and the technical capability that we offer on the site.”
The country’s two largest newspaper chains, Sun Media and Postmedia Network Inc., also recently introduced paywalls. In some cases, proprietors are bundling access on their digital platforms with print subscriptions, to arrest the drop in print circulation.
The Globe model, which it has dubbed Unlimited, offers 10 free articles every month, with a flat charge for accessing additional content. Articles shared on most social-media platforms are also free, as are videos.
News organizations around the world are pinning their hopes on a metered model of selling online content, as print advertising and subscriptions continue to shrink. Earlier this month, The New York Times revealed that, for the first time, it earned more from subscriptions in 2012 than from advertising. The Times has an estimated 668,000 digital subscribers, many of whom get unfettered access to its website with a print subsciption.
Mr. Crawley said subscription revenue from The Globe paywall is about 25 per cent higher than forecast. The number of readers accessing the site (known as uniques) remained steady at about four million every month, although total page views dropped about 10 per cent to 15 per cent after the paywall was introduced.
Still, other paywalls have been less successful. The Boston Globe, also owned by the New York Times Co., has attracted only 28,000 subscribers since introducing its own metered model in late 2011. On Wednesday, the Times announced it is looking to sell off the Boston newspaper.