Interesting look at paywalls this morning from Frédéric Filloux on Monday Note. He analyses the reasons for the successes of the Financial Times and New York Times "progressive paywalls", and makes some good observations about what it takes to make these sorts of things work, for example:
Both are working hard at converting readers to the digital paid-for model. The FT is heading full steam into digital, furiously data-mining its 4 million subscribers base to convert them into paid-for subscribers (250,000 according to the most recent count).
But his overall conclusion is one I agree with strongly but which many don't want to hear, I suspect:
Of these three factors, the uniqueness of content remains the most potent one. With the inflation of aggregators and of social reading habits, the natural replication of information has turned into an overwhelming flood. Then, the production of specific content -- and its protection -- becomes a key element in building value.
I was involved in a significant amount of work in my final year at RBI looking at exactly what kinds of content people will pay for, through what mechanism, and how to create more of it. Uniqueness was certainly one key factor - as was the amount of business value that investment returns to the reader, which is exactly why the FT does so well.