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Boston Globe Drops Paywall to Attract Subscribers: Are Paywalls Just for National Papers?

Published on April 25, 2012

The Boston Globe is offering free access to its online edition through May 9, reports paidContent. Reporter Jeff John Roberts dug into the story, to find that the Globe has attracted just 18.000 subscribers since erecting the paywall last October.

Roberts reported earlier in the week that The New York Times Co. announced that online revenue had slid 2% from a year ago—but in that year, and after erecting its paywall, the Times has attracted 454,000 paid digital subscribers. The Times is so bullish on its digital subscribership that in March it cut the number of free stories nonsubscribers are allowed to read by 50%, from 20 per month to 10. The changeover took effect on Monday, April 20th. The Times on its website explained that “The change provides us with an opportunity to convince another segment of our audience that what The Times has to offer is worth paying for.”

The Globe is gambling on the same, and its idea is “getting the word out on new features, including the Boston Globe e-paper,” said the Globe’s Executive Director of Sales and Marketing Peter Doucette—but the Globe has yet to articulate what those features are, other than automatically adapting to mobile devices. 

Likely, the Globe will find that a regional newspaper has less of a value proposition for subscribers (and advertisers) than does a more national property like The New York Times—for that matter, like the Los Angeles Times, which according to comScore data, was the third-most-viewed U.S. newspaper website in 2011 (17 million unique visitors a month); the New York Times and Washington Post ranked first and second.