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Fredrik Linge
Sign of the times

The Irish Times is bringing in a very leaky paywall

But one analyst has warned the plan could backfire and send readers to other outlets.

Updated 12.04pm

THE IRISH TIMES will start charging for its online content from next Monday under a “leaky” paywall model.

The newspaper announced today it will charge up to €16 a month for its “premium” digital subscription, while the standard offer will be €12 a month.

The majority of its news content will go behind a leaky paywall – one which allows readers to view up to 10 articles a week for free.

But the paper said articles shared through Google, Facebook and Twitter would also remain free, as would some other content on the site.

Metered, or leaky paywall models, are much simpler to get around than “hard” paywalls, which block all content to non-subscribers.

In most cases, so-minded readers can circumvent weekly or monthly article limits through incognito browsing windows and other tricks.


Plan could backfire

But one analyst has warned the move could drive readers into the arms of its main rival, The Irish Independent.

In a briefing note, Davy’s John Stokes said it would be “very interesting” to monitor the progress of the move, but he expected traffic to the Independent’s website could increase after the move.

Both papers have been shedding distribution and advertising revenue as readers move to online news outlets, with the Independent losing 35% of its circulation and the Times 42% over the past five years, according to the latest National Newspapers of Ireland figures.

Popes Resigns Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

Second time lucky

Today The Irish Times reported that The Irish Times editor Kevin O’Sullivan said the move would “support future investment in journalism” in print and digital.

This will be The Times’ second stab at charging for online content after an abortive attempt several years ago to make digital users pay.

O’Sullivan later told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke the abandoned plan had been “very simplistic”.

“It was almost quite quaint in the sense that a digital story was just putting up text online, now a digital story has many elements to it … it’s a different kind of conversation now,” he said.

He said the subscription fees were “modest” and targeted at the paper’s “more intensely-consuming reader”, and he expected about 85% of its online users wouldn’t be affected.

The Times’ move to a paywall follows similar shifts from papers including the New York Times and UK’s Daily Telegraph, which both introduced online subscriptions much earlier to stem the bleeding from lost print readers.

The New York Times, which first went behind a leaky paywall in 2011, has nearly 1 million digital subscribers, but growth has levelled off.

READ: Opinion: What do traditional newspapers have to do to survive? >

READ: Lots of people are watching UTV Ireland’s big soaps. But not much else… >

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