France’s Le Figaro newspaper has announced a freemium pricing model for their online service.
The service, which is slated to go live on Monday, will implement a three-tiered pricing system. However, as the paper’s spokesman Antoine Daccord said in a statement today, “News will be free forever.”
If Newsday’s poor paywall subscription rates or McClatchy’s plans to stay paywall-free hadn’t caught the attention of the New York Times, hopefully Le Figaro’s announcement will.
The planned tiers include a free subscription, which allows users to read stories, post comments, receive emailed newsletters of top stories and create a personalized home page. The payment scheme also include two paid levels, which include access to the newspaper’s archives at set numbers of stories per month, digital copies of the paper, and premium content such as New York Times articles translated into French. Interestingly, paid subscribers also have access to a news self-publication feature similar to CNN’s iReport.
While it remains to be seen how many of Le Figaro’s 7 million unique visitors will pony up for the scheme, this particular payment model has clear advantages over the Times’ proposed model. Most importantly, the online site and its core functionality remains free to all. In addition, the value-added content that Le Figaro hopes to make its money from provides a clear upgrade to the base experience. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that this functionality will be enough to make the site worth paying for to some users.
The New York Times’ plans have met with some seriously unfavorable responses from the online community, and should be reconsidered. While a free site may not be feasible for their particular needs, a freemium site could allay readers’ concerns, while still retaining bits and pieces of a money-making paywall. This could be the solution everyone is looking for.