Business Insider has published an interesting review of how newspapers are fairing as they transition from the paper-based world they knew so well into a digital age which so clearly still flummoxes some of them.
The Guardian and the Mail lead the way with big numbers their reward for giving content away free, though questions will always persist about the sustainability and margins of a free model.
However, Business Insider is more concerned about the rest of the press pack. Of the Telegraph, it says "the entire organization is struggling with the transition to digital".
The Telegraph's metered paywall, which lets us have a few stories free per month before kicking in is a clumsy, neither-nor sort of measure, the logic of which I have struggled to understand since it was introduced.
The problem with it is that, by chance, I only seem to hit the paywall while in the process of clicking on something I can find for free elsewhere - a sports report, a piece of news from the wires or a piece of news written up from a press release. Any inclination I might have to sign up is quashed by the fact I'll be able to get what I'm looking for elsewhere, for free.
If the Telegraph really wants to have a paywall which is triggered at a given point, it would surely be better served linking that trigger to types of content rather than just picking an arbitrary monthly limit. Give the commodity stuff away free, tag it to not trigger the paywall, then make people log-in for the unique stuff. For example, I enjoy the political sketches of Michael Deacon but as he doesn't produce enough each month to trigger the paywall across the multiple devices I use to access the Telegraph website, I get to read it all for free. But sod's says the paywall would activate as I clicked on, for example, the Telegraph's write-up of a Rightmove survey about the best places to live in Britain (St Ives, apparently). In that case I'd easily be able to find the article elsewhere:
The Times and The Sun meanwhile are toiling away behind their far less ambiguous paywalls. Business Insider is critical of the dramatic fall in online readers that the paywall brought about at both titles, but that drop will not have come as a surprise to News UK and the company remains very upbeat about the progress it is making. As reported last month, there are now 225,000 subscribers signed up to The Sun's digital offering, with the majority paying £7.99 per month. Though as an aside The Sun did this week launch a site covering the Millies - its annual awards for military service men and women - with articles which sit outside the paywall. However, News UK says this was a one off for the Millies and it has no immediate plans to put other content outside the paywall.
The bleakest prognosis is reserved for the Express which Business Insider reports is "losing the war on all fronts" with print sales in a similar decline to many of its rivals but web traffic that is considerably lower. In October this year, the Mail Online got almost as many people onto its website in a single day (14.4 million) as the Express managed in the whole month (16.4 million). The According to ABCe figures, the Express gets less than 10 per cent of the monthly traffic enjoyed by its nearest editorial neighbour.
The Express's response seems to have been an attempt to ape the Daily Mail's infamous 'sidebar of shame' with much of its online content but its efforts are clearly failing to pull in the same volume of readers.