Globe and Mail paywall a seismic online change

Oct 22, 2012 | News

By Erin Eaton

The Globe and Mail unleashed a major change in their online publication today, launching its digital subscription package, Globe Unlimited.

The Globe is the most recent Canadian newspaper to add a paywall that charges $20 a month for full access to the website.

According to Bob Hepburn, director of communications for the Toronto Star, the paywall is a trend that news junkies need to get used to.

“Many publications, including The Star, are looking at paywalls, and they’re looking at them seriously and with reason,” Hepburn told Humber News.

“A metered paywall or bundled editorial offering may provide important new revenue streams to support great reporting.”

Globe and Mail publisher Philip Crawley told the Canadian Journalism Project that the decision was made after a detailed study of other subscription sites such as those of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

The Globe is not the first Canadian paper to charge for content, however it is the most expensive for Canadians. The National Post started charging international readers this summer, while the Vancouver Sun and Ottawa Citizen also charge all online readers, but at considerably lower cost.

Basil Guinane, Humber’s Associate Dean of the School of Media Studies and Information Technology said Humber students might not accept the paywall as willingly as their parents.

“The fact is that you do have a generation that’s been raised in a totally different environment in terms of access to information, approaches to information and how they are able to get it without paying for it,” he said.

“Will somebody in their late teens or early twenties pay the money to actually access that journalism? – I don’t know. I do think people of later generations will be more inclined to do that.  That’s the world that they’re used to.”

According to a study conducted by Pew Research Centre, about 65 per cent of people online have paid for digital content, but only about half of those people pay over $10 a month. The majority of online spenders are paying for music or software, whereas only 18% are paying for digital newspapers, magazine, articles or reports.

Twitterverse commentary seems to support the survey, with many social media users expressing unwillingness to pay.

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Similarly, “Bye” was the single-word comment that received over 1,000 up-votes on the Globe’s article explaining the changes.

Though it’s a tough sell, Associate Dean Guinane said high-quality news needs to be encouraged and supported.

“Journalism is a pillar of our society and it has to be supported in some way.  And, getting people to pay for it is going to be difficult because we’ve had free access to so much information for so long. But I can’t help but feel that people should be willing to pay a premium for information and support, dare I say it, a brand that they know and respect.”