This week, Esther talks to the The Times and Sunday Times’ Head of Digital Alan Hunter about how they met their milestone of 500,000 digital subscribers, why their paywall persistence has paid off, and how edition-based publishing is more important to their audience than ever.

In the news roundup the team discuss bad news for the New York Daily News, “bad” news for Facebook, good news for the Guardian and WTF news for Condé Nast and Goop.

We’re reading:

In our own words: Esther Kezia Thorpe

This year has unquestionably been the Year of the Paywall. Here on Media Voices we’ve followed the sudden surge in publishers adopting paywalls, and have even interviewed some of those who have put a subscriber-first solution in place.

But for The Times and Sunday Times, paywalls are old hat. Theirs was introduced almost a decade ago, but not quite to the reception we’d expect today:

“When we first introduced subscriptions, people thought we were crazy,” Alan Hunter said to me. “For a long time we’d go to conferences, and people would pat you on the back and say “Oh, I’m really sorry about this”.

“But if you look back on it, it seemed very logical that journalism costs money, and you have to pay for it one way or another.”

Now, sustainable reader revenue is the dream for most publishers, and The Times’ decision to put up a hard paywall all those years ago is far from crazy.

It’s only natural now that the media world should be closely watching Hunter and his team to see what they come up with next. A registration wall was introduced back in 2016, and they have plans to experiment with a flexible paywall as well as seeing huge potential in the audio space.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing, but I wonder how many strategies we dismiss as ‘crazy’ today that will come to fruition in the years to come? Certainly any model that places both the readers and quality content at its heart won’t go far wrong…


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