Gordon Brown came out against News International’s plan to erect paywalls to access The Times and Sunday Times online this week, arguing that internet users are used to free content and would not pay for it.
We won’t find out for some months after the paywalls go live in June whether they have been well received by readers, but if Mr Brown is wrong, customers could possibly abandon buying their newsstand copies of the titles altogether in favour of a cheaper online subscription.
Although a significantly smaller market, one area of magazines that has been heavily battered by the availability of online content, despite introducing paywalls, is the gaming sector.
Future Publishing, which produces a raft of official gaming titles, has admitted the print market is very tough, and in a recent poll Retail Newsagent readers said sales had really dropped off. In the second half of last year just two of the 13 gaming magazines that posted an ABC figure grew their circulations.
With £5 being the average cost of subscribing up to a gaming website, gamers can get every single bit of information that they’d get from a magazine for the same amount or less than most titles.
But is there anything gaming publishers can do to combat these falling print sales, or should they just let the sector fade away? And if more paywalls are introduced, could this trend carry through to the newspaper market, with the potential of being much more damaging to retailers’ sales?