News Limited: We’re talking to bloggers about paywalls because their influence matters

News Limited will next week continue its paywall evangelising with a live streamed debate aimed at making the case for its digital subscriptiuon strategy.

The move comes as the Herald Sun moves to a freemium – a mixture of free content and paid premium content – from Monday. It folows in the footprints of The Australian which took the same route last last year.

The company has updated its Future Of Journalism discussion site with articles and videos and last week conducted blogger briefings.

It also did the same before The Australian launched its paywall.

Stephen Browning, director of communications for News Limited, told Mumbrella: “The reason why we decided to host dedicated briefing and discussion sessions with bloggers was simple – they are important, influential, voices. They attract large audiences who listen to what they say and trust their judgement. So, increasingly, we are engaging with them in exactly the same way we would traditional media journalists – briefing over the phone or in person, giving press releases in advance, inviting them to events and so on.”

PR agency Edelman has been advising News Limited on the project.

Browning added: “In the case of digital subscriptions there was another important nuance. We know that digital natives are less likely to become online news subscribers. They get their news from multiple sources – traditional news sources, social media, through RSS feeds and so on – often aggregating for themselves through FlipBook or Zite or the like. So this group really isn’t our target market. But it was important to us that they understood that there are millions of people out there who don’t have the time, inclination or expertise to do this and are quite willing to pay for a single trusted source to deliver relevant news to them wherever and whenever they want it, ie across online, tablet and mobile.

“So one of our hopes from the briefings was that when the bloggers wrote about digital subscriptions, even if they wrote ‘I will never pay for news’ they would at least acknowledge that there was a large audience out there who will. To that end we’ve been very successful.”

Next week sees the company stage its “Pixels & Ink” debate in Melbourne, chaired by Edelman’s New York-based EVP of global strategy and insights Steve Rubel. Panellists include Herald & Weekly Times editor-in-chief Phil Gardner, News Limited editorial director Campbell Reid, Y&R brands CEO Russel Howcroft and RMIT journalism lecturer Renee Barnes.

The debate will also be live video streamed. The company is promoting the hashtag #heraldsunfoj

Among the online coverage generated by the project was on Australian Anthill.


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