COMMENT: After years of free access, many readers may question why the Herald decided to introduce digital subscriptions for our premium content this week.
For some, it may have felt sudden or drastic but, in all honestly, it's a strategy which has arrived about 30 years too late.
Looking back on his storied news career, Rupert Murdoch's long-time lieutenant and so-called "hitman", Les Hinton, described giving content away for free online as the "great error" the newspaper industry made. "We let the bloody tiger out the gate in the mid-90s," Hinton said. "I was as blind as everyone else. I did it as well. I can't claim any superior knowledge."
Hindsight sometimes takes the form of a recurring chilled shudder, sporadically reminding us of our worst decisions. This error was replicated around the world and the New Zealand media was not spared its impact. And neither was the New Zealand Herald.
Admittedly, conversations about paywalling content have floated around for years, but the Herald decided to proceed with caution. Any weathered innovator will tell you pushing the go-button too early can be as devastating as, or worse than, arriving too late. So what has changed and why was 2019 the right time to finally put the gold banner on our premium content?
With apologies to the Nobel Prize-winning writer and erstwhile troubadour Bob Dylan, "the times, they have been a changing". The free-for-all which once typified the internet has settle into a more organised structure, which now has consumers paying for the best content available. Netflix, Spotify and Apple Music have all played a major role in shifting expectations and online users are, on the face of it, feeling more comfortable to be parting with a small amount ofmoney for content which merits it.
Major media organisations have witnessed the changing mood and have followed suit, with the New York Times, the Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald and now the New Zealand Herald all charging for parts of their online offerings.
The first week has given us confidence that the move came at the right time. Many New Zealanders have already subscribed and more are signing up every day. We aren't under any illusion that everyone will be willing to pay for the news, but we're working hard to give those who do something to justify the commitment.
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It doesn't matter whether it's the cost of a cup of coffee or that of the entire café – the point is that readers are trusting us enough to deliver something they can't get anywhere else. And that's a responsibility we won't take lightly.
Much as any user can cancel their Netflix account after having to scroll through one too many Adam Sandler films, we know our reputation and your willingness to back us is contingent entirely on what we deliver.
Rebuilding the broken cage is one thing, but it's entirely different challenge convincing the tiger it's worth coming back and perhaps hanging around for a while.
As ever, we thank you for your continued support. It sustains us and motivates us to do even better.