The UK’s Independent newspaper is to follow in the footsteps of The Times and Financial Times by introducing a paywall, except it will only apply to readers outside the UK, reports the Guardian.
Launched in 1986, the Independent is one of the youngest UK national daily newspapers, and around half of the newspaper’s online traffic arrives from readers outside the UK, with total unique users at around 16m each month. As the Guardian reports, it’s thought that the initial target demographic will be “a couple of hundred thousand” users in North America who view more than twenty articles a month. The Independent will follow the similar model adopted by the Financial Times and New York Times, in offering access to twenty articles for free each month, with readers then charged $6.99 a month for unlimited access.
It’s thought the paywall will come into effect some time in the next week, and constitutes one of the biggest changes to the Independent’s website in a number of years.
The exercise is being led by Zach Leonard, Managing Director for Digital at the Evening Standard & Independent Newspapers. Leonard is also heading the launch of a new premium iPad subscription service for the Independent. Users will be able to access single issue, monthly and annual services, and the final tariffs have yet to be established. The newspaper already has ‘thousands of active subscribers’ to the Amazon Kindle edition of the Independent in the US and the UK, and this is something it hopes it can build on with its new iPad subscription service.
The Times newspaper went behind a paywall in the UK in June 2010, with Rupert Murdoch extending the online paid model to News International’s now-defunct Sunday publication – the News of the World – in October that year. And the New York Times followed suit earlier this year.
The Independent’s main difference here is that it’s clearly looking at the ‘UK’ and ‘international’ as two entirely different markets. In an interview with the Guardian last week, Chris Blackhurst, Editor at the Independent, said that it was necessary “to make a distinction between the UK and foreign readers. In the UK, where you have a BBC, it is very hard to make the case for a paywall”.
But other publications clearly have made a case for introducing a domestic paywall, and it will be interesting to see whether the Independent’s stance on this changes if its international efforts prove fruitful.