Prof. Dr. Dominik Papies (Eberhard Karls University Tübingen):
"Online newspapers and paywalls"
Thursday, November 12, 02:00pm - 04:00pm (WiSo Building, Room 410)
Newspapers around the globe have been facing two key challenges in the past years. First, their business model, which has traditionally been based on a wide circulation of their print editions, has come under pressure because of a strong and steady decline in print circulation. Second, newspapers were struggling to convert the surge in clicks that their online editions received into advertising revenue. These combined developments have already lead to the death of a large number of newspapers. In the attempt to benefit from consumer interest in online news, several newspapers have started to implement a paywall around their online edition, which requests users to pay a monthly or per article fee. It is, however, unclear what the consequences of these paywalls are, and case study reports suggest a sharp decline in online readership. Academic research, so far, has only looked at individual cases of newspapers, and tends to support these very negative consequences. However, it is questionable whether these results can be generalized beyond the individual cases because despite these negative findings, the number of newspapers relying on paywalls is steadily increasing. This suggests that there may be context factors that mitigate the negative effect of paywalls. Our research seeks to broaden our knowledge of the effects of paywalls by utilizing a sample that covers more than 100 German newspapers (of which almost 50 introduced a paywall during the observation period) and their online readership as well as offline circulation over a period of almost 10 years.
Although our findings support previous reports about negative effects, we find that most online newspapers continue to grow even after the paywall introduction, and that the immediate effect of on the online readership is modest. Further, our research highlights the relevance of assessing effect heterogeneity as the negative consequences are very pronounced for some newspapers, while others barely suffer.