The Sun’s online paywall is to be torn down – is this the right move?

03/11/2015

The chief executive of News UK, Rebekah Brooks, has announced that The Sun website will go free from November 30 – Cyber Monday. Katie Hartley, Group Account Director in Amplifi’s Publishing Team, looks at how the paywall has panned out for The Sun – and what the future holds.

Katie Hartley Media Product Director Amplifi The Sun press marketing Paywall Rebekah Brooks
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After two years behind the paywall, July saw The Sun’s first major step in this direction with the announcement that select digital content would be made available for free.

Since then, and particularly post commentary around the volume of content this included, the market has been expectant of news for a full transition to free.

Credit to NewsUK for adopting a paid for strategy in this first instance; it was a brave move and the principle that good journalism should command a fair price is a valid one.

Whether a fair price can always be achieved through the traditional publisher blend of consumer payment and advertising billings, is another much more complex matter and varies from title to title.

The Sun’s offering of mass market content at a price managed to secure 225k paying subscribers, which is an impressive figure; however many more were enjoying similar mass market content from traditional competitors, MailOnline (11m monthly uniques) and MirrorOnline (4.8m monthly uniques), as well as countless new players, the likes of Buzzfeed etc for free. The masses had voted with their feet! Or fingers…

Despite budget wins not all being all about numbers, for a mass market content provider this will always play a role. Whilst a pay for model can excel at quality data generation, creating better targeting opportunities for clients, in the case of The Sun, the inability to deliver this at scale due to the paywall, looks to have been a hindrance to commercial gains.

Removal of this barrier along with their commitment to the content should prove a fruitful move.

Katie Hartley Media Product Director Amplifi The Sun press marketing Paywall Rebekah Brooks
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