Shift 2013: Mirror titles and MailOnline will not go behind paywalls

16 Apr 2013  |  David Pidgeon 

Simon Fox, chief executive of Trinity Mirror has said that his publishing group will not place any of its content behind a paywall, choosing instead to expand the reach and quality of his publications, as Lord Rothermere, chairman of DMGT, has said that the MailOnline will also remain free, but the media wing of his business is experimenting with 'freemium' models with the launch of Daily Mail Plus.

Speaking at Newsworks' Shift 2013 conference, where editors, media agencies and publishers discussed how newspapers can remain effective and influential platforms in the multi-platform age, Fox said, "I don't see why we would get substantial revenues from putting up paywalls. I'd rather concentrate on reach and quality.

"As long as we write distinctive, well written journalism, then we will survive," he said, adding that newsbrands, despite seeing continuing declines in print circulations, were "doing a good job adapting to change."

Conceding that the move to digital and the challenge of producing content and publishing across multiple platforms posed a number of major challenges, particularly when it came to advertising, Fox said that there was no single answer for any of the issues facing the newspaper industry and that business models were complex and evolving.

"There are inefficiencies in the ad booking process," Fox said, along with a "surprising legacy behaviour," suggesting the entire language in which information is shared with advertisers needs to be changed and simplified as content is delivered in traditional print formats as well as across laptops, PCs, tablets and, increasingly, mobile devices.

"We need to give our advertisers better information. NRS PADD [that fuses readership figures for print and online] is a good start, but we need to incorporate mobile and tablets," noting that that is where a quarter of digital traffic now comes from for his newsbrands.

Lord Rothermere, whose DMGT owns the MailOnline, Daily Mail and Sunday Mail as well as the free-sheet, Metro, also said that, currently, there were no plans to place MailOnline content behind a paywall.

However, there was some experimentation charging users to view the 'premium content' for Daily Mail Plus.

The 'freemium' business model, in which a fee is charged for advanced features, functionality and content, appears to mirror the experimental nature of the various business models the newspaper industry is trying out.

"The birth of the Internet...[and] the growth of tablet and mobiles represents a sea-change for our business," Rothermere said, "but the core belief [for our Daily Mail brand] is that we should not stop people viewing Mail content."

Likewise, Rothermere mooted the idea of buying rights, particularly in sport, in a further indication that newsbrands were vastly expanding what they have traditionally offered readers.

Currently the MailOnline boasts around 7.5 million browsers - globally - each day and that figure is still growing. The large North American audience also means that the main competition for the MailOnline does not come from UK newsbrands, but from the likes of Yahoo News.

Asked about declining ad revenues, Rotheremere cited the disappearance of classified advertising as a key loss as more content is delivered online, indicating that newsbrands must work very differently, on a commercial level, than they used to.

Tony Gallagher, Editor of the Daily Telegraph, who also took the stage to showcase his own paper's push into the digital realm, said that the "survival of newspapers is dependent on the ability to evolve...innovation is a condition of our survival," he said.

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