On paywalls and PR

On the work blog for Ruder Finn, I've written a fairly lengthy piece musing on the effect of paywalls in PR. It's aimed at a primarily PR audience, but it's something all working in comms should probably be considering (assuming they're not already). There are some agencies - and companies - who merge the disciplines of PR, SEO and content marketing (or branded journalism, as some like to describe it) very well indeed. Others prefer to silo a bit more.

Fair enough. I'm no SEO specialist and wouldn't pretend to be, but I know enough to understand why it's important (and I've lost count of the number of social media or PR talks I've been to that play down the importance of Google and its core offerings) and what needs to be done about it.

So with more newspapers disappearing behind paywalls, what does this create? Opportunities? Barriers? Communities? A rejection of the social nature of the web? A solid base for the future? All or none of these?

I'm not quite sure I can give a definitive answer to this - after all, while it can be tempting to look at The Sun, say, just in terms of figures, you could also argue that a large reason it's disappeared behind a paywall is to do with the football content its offering.

I still think, personally, that The Sun and The Times will have to work extra hard to make their paywalls a success when it comes to attracting new subscribers in the long-term, partly because they're so general. As for The Telegraph, I've barely noticed the impact of the paywall, despite being a reasonably regular visitor to the site.

The Financial Times (and to a certain extent The Economist), for me, has still got it right when it comes to a paywall strategy. They're about the only two I'd pay for and they understand how Google works and why it's important. Which is more than many others both in journalism and PR.

UPDATE: Just as I write this, the NME announce micropayment charges around specific content. That's another interesting option for publishers. Not sure how this will interact with Google though.