I woke up early this morning, had breakfast, and started working on assignments. After a while I wanted a short break, went on Facebook, and saw an interesting article posted by the Times of Malta Facebook page. This post’s cover photo? That’s what came up.
Look, I somewhat understand putting up a paywall for those visiting the site from abroad, but for me? A Maltese dude whose family buys the Sunday Times of Malta regularly, who clicks on interesting ads, who comments, who links to the Times? Unacceptable.
A friend of mine, a Maltese national living in the UK, sent me this screenshot. This was last week.
Clicking on the “Subscribe” button brings us to a registration page where we’re promised an as-yet unreleased Times of Malta app (on Google Play, at least). It also gives you access to premium content (which seems to be all the really important and relevant stuff), the e-paper, and International Access.
Look, I’m a University student with a blog, running to and fro from one thing to the next. Do I really have time to read through your e-paper? Nobody in my age bracket does, and do you really think it’s wise to block the generation who needs every reason to check your newspaper instead of these up-and-coming online news sites? Finally, I wish I was a jet-setting businessman or writer or secret assassin so I can indeed make use of the International Access that €2.99 a week, every four weeks, would grant me. That’s an introductory offer too, it goes up to €3.99 soon.
Interestingly enough, the Breaking News section is still available for free, but is that one thing you can get from anywhere else within a matter of minutes, if not seconds.
How to fix this
Let’s make things right. I’m a Business student and I can understand the need to generate more revenue, perhaps to fuel better content in the future. But this isn’t the way to do it. Here’s how I would fix this.
First, split Premium and Non-Premium content. Add a subdomain with premium content that is set apart from the rest. Makes it seem better, a bit more exclusive.
Make premium content worthwhile! If this is an article I can ultimately read on any other online publication in Malta not only are you losing readers but you’re handing your competitors the rope with which to hang you. Don’t do it. Make video features, more interviews, in-depth articles tackling deep-rooted issues in Maltese society. Make daily columns by Maltese writers available either in print or through an online subscription. Essentially, take a good look at what foreign newspapers are doing. And The Verge, their video team is KILLING it.
Finally, don’t make current affairs a Premium content exclusive! What’s the point of reading an online newspaper if you have to pay to get the most relevant bits? This kind of stuff isn’t written about everyday, and you may very well convince people they’re better off buying the print edition the next day, after they’ve heard the news from their friends, the radio, or TVM. Or, you know, visited one of your competitors’ websites.
For the love of God, fix this. Offering paid content is fresh, it’s modern, but it’s not done this way. If you come across more premium content that should be free, send me an email at emmanuel AT enexi DOT net.
Developing…. I will add more to this post with timed/dated updates as more information comes through.