News24 launched its new digital subscription service on 8 August, offering subscribers access to investigative reporting, opinions, analysis, and podcasts for R75 per month.
Subscribers also get access to magazines and newspapers, including City Press, YOU, Drum, and TrueLove.
Other benefits include posting comments, listening to articles, and sharing subscriber-only articles with friends.
Instead of putting the full site behind a paywall, News24 opted for a blended model where current affairs, crime, sport, business, and entertainment news is still free.
As South Africa’s largest news publication, this announcement drew a lot of attention, with many people questioning News24’s decision.
Commentators predicted that the digital subscription would fail as the paywalled content does not hold enough value to justify charging for it.
Others predicted a decline in traffic as users migrate to competitors which offer all their content for free, like IOL, EWN, and eNCA.
To date, this predicted decline did not happen. In the first two weeks of August, News24 attracted 7.8 million unique browsers, which is ahead of its usual readership.
The true impact of the paywall, however, will only be felt in the coming months as usage patterns stabilise.
Different subscription models
News24’s blended subscription model is used by many other South African publications, like TimesLive, Citizen, Business Day, and Moneyweb.
In most cases a large percentage of content is free, with premium content hidden behind a paywall.
The Daily Maverick uses a different model. It gives users the option to pay as much as they want and as often as they want.
All the content is available for free, but subscribers get benefits like ad-free browsing, commenting, and access to member-only events.
The table below provides an overview of South Africa’s top online publications and their monthly subscription price – if they have one.
|South Africa’s Top News Publications|
|Website||Category||Readership (Unique Browsers)||Subscription Service||Monthly price|
|News24||General News||13.03 million||Yes||R75.00|
|IOL||General News||7.32 million||No||—|
|TimesLive||General News||6.20 million||Yes||R80.00|
|EWN||General News||5.74 million||No||—|
|The South African||General News||4.02 million||No||—|
|Citizen||General News||3.45 million||Yes||R24.75|
|Daily Maverick||General News||3.08 million||Yes||R75.00|
|Business Insider||Business||2.88 million||No||—|
|Maroela Media||General News||2.53 million||No||—|
|ENCA||General News||2.41 million||No||—|
|Business Live||Business||2.29 million||Yes||R120.00|
|Sowetanlive||General News||2.27 million||No||—|
|Netwerk24||General News||2.00 million||Yes||R99.00|
|Capetown Etc||General News||1.98 million||No||—|
|Kick Off South Africa||Sport||1.38 million||No||—|
|Daily Sun||General News||1.29 million||No||—|
|Soccer Laduma||Sport||1.22 million||No||—|