Britain’s Telegraph Media Group (TMG), publisher of The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph, has instated a metered digital subscription model for international visitors to its website and users of its apps. The new system, modeled on that put in place by The New York Times last March, lets readers from outside the UK view 20 free articles per month before they hit the wall. Here’s what we know so far:
Who: Readers situated in Britain, you may breathe a sigh of relief— TMG claims that it has no plans thus far to charge you for content. The new modus operandi affects only far-flung Telegraphites.
The Telegraph is the most widely read quality daily national newspaper in the UK, according to the latest National Readership Survey, with 9.23 million readers across print and online platforms.
What: International readers who have exceeded their 20 article quota are offered two options.
1) The £1.99 ($3.20) /month “Telegraph Web and Mobile Pack,” including unlimited website and mobile app access, or
2) The £9.99 ($16) /month “Digital Pack,” offering the same plus iPad access to the Daily and Sunday Telegraph.
Readers will be given a month-long free trial before having to commit to either plan.
When: The paywall was introduced at noon GMT on November 1. Plans to charge for digital content had been in the works for two years, according to the Guardian.
Where: TMG claims that two-thirds of its digital readership comes from outside Britain. A quick scan of home page (“New York: How to live with climate change;” “Boost for Barack Obama as US adds 171,000 jobs”) shows that, like the Guardian and the Daily Mail, the Telegraph is courting American readers. Some wonder whether it will take a hit, now that it is playing hard to get.
Why: Several hypotheses have been circulating, such as:
“Today’s move is no more than a litmus test ahead of an expected roll out across UK users and grabbing a large slice of the holy grail: customer data. What TMG wants-in the long term-is transactional data on its UK readers so it can start flogging them as many products as possible. And any boost in revenues from the venture is just a welcome byproduct.” John Reynolds, Media Week
“International markets, particularly the US, have become a major new battleground for British publishers including the Guardian and the Daily Mail in attempting to expand and generate revenue from online news.” Josh Halliday, The Guardian
It also bodes well that The Times, which has a more restrictive paywall applicable to Britons and foreigners alike, increased its number of digital subscribers by 56 percent in its first 13 months, and the Sunday Times by 66 percent, according to Press Gazette. And the Financial Times, which also charges both locals and overseas readers for digital content, reported last week that it now has 313,000 online subscribers—up 17 percent from last year.
The Independent, on the other hand, is considering knocking down the paywall it erected in the path of readers in Canada and the U.S. claiming that it “has not delivered on the ambitions from a revenue standpoint,” reports PaidContent.
Finally, it is worth noting that the Daily Telegraph’s print edition had an average circulation of around 584,000 in August 2012— down 7.6 percent from last year according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. Print circulation for the Sunday Telegraph was down 7.2 percent. The website, meanwhile, attracted an average of 2.7 million daily unique browsers in September— up 34 percent from last year.
Will it be possible for the Telegraph to improve upon the Independent's score and capitalize on this growing readership? It appears that Britain's best-read quality paper is trying to find out by testing the international waters before rocking the boat at home.