How much is a newspaper worth in the age of the Internet? If you live in New Brunswick, the answer might be nothing at all. Or perhaps even less.
The Irving family, owners of Brunswick News, which controls most of that province’s newspapers, recently erected a strict paywall for their online products. If you want to read so much as a headline of the Telegraph-Journal, the Daily Gleaner, or any other Brunswick News paper online, you now need a subscription, which at the moment costs $19.95 per month. But under a deal now available on Brunswick News websites, customers can get full online access for $16.95 per month. The only catch? They have to accept physical delivery of a daily paper as well, at no additional cost.
The Irvings are essentially paying online customers $3 a month to take their printed paper six days a week. The company declined to comment on its motives, but the move appears designed to shore up the print advertising business that still provides most newspaper revenues. At the same time, it may hope to entice some online-only customers to become print readers, too. The risk is that, faced with a paywall, customers used to free news online may become readers of no news at all.