Business Day publisher and editor-in-chief, Peter Bruce says he doesn’t care how many people subscribe to the newspaper’s online edition, which went behind a paywall earlier this month (May 2013). Bruce was speaking to Toby Shapshak on Summit TV’s Tech on Tap show.
Business Day is charging readers R11 per day for access to its digital content. A three month subscription is discounted to R1,183, while readers can subscribe for a year at R4,233.
Contemplating the possibility that people don’t subscribe to the digital version of Business Day, Bruce said: “That’s fine. Here’s the thing, let’s say no-one subscribes, it’s no loss to me whatsoever.”
“Basically it means nothing is for free, that’s all…that’s my bottom line. I don’t care how many people subscribe. It’s gratifying that so many have, but as long as I am not giving away content for free, I’m a happy man.”
He said that over the past 10 days or so, he’s found it difficult to find Business Day in his local Spar, an indication, he believes, that the paywall model is working.
South African market
When posed with the question of whether the South African market was big enough to sustain a paywall model, Bruce said that Business Day’s online edition received two kinds of traffic, the in-and-out traffic through Google, and overseas readers which, account for 20%.
“These people aren’t consuming more than 15 stories per month. With our paywall, once you have registered you get those 15 stories for free,” Bruce said.
“We’re designed to try to capture those people who want more out of the internet, and we will charge them a subscription for more than 15 [articles], otherwise we will see you again next month,” he said.
The editor-in-chief said that within the first week of going behind a paywall, BusinessDay has garnered “about 100 digital subscriptions” which he said was “way more than I imagined”.
He said that already amounted to over R200,000 in revenue the group would not have otherwise had.