Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Paywall Pioneer: After Three Years, the Daily O'Collegian Continues to See Paywall Success

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Paywall Pioneer: After Three Years, the Daily O'Collegian Continues to See Paywall Success

Article excerpt

When Oklahoma State University's Daily O'Collegian launched its paywall in early 2011, it became the first college news outlet to charge readers for access to its online content. Today, the newspaper has about 500 digital subscribers reading articles at ocolly.com.

General manager Ray Catalino said when he approached Press+ ("an e-commerce platform that helps publishers implement flexible subscription models," according to its website) the company hadn't reached out to college newsrooms yet, even though it was leading the charge for paywall strategies among professional newspapers.

Catalino said erecting a paywall was a way to not only generate additional revenue, but to teach student journalists the value of their website content. "Instead of just dumping stories on there, I wanted to show them people will pay for it, so they had to take (the website) seriously," he said. "It trained students to put up new things on a regular basis and taught them their content is valuable."

In its first year, annual digital subscriptions were $10. The following year it increased to $15. It is currently offered at $20, and Catalino doesn't expect it to go any higher. Subscribers who choose to renew are locked-in at the price they came in at. Students and faculty can view stories online at no charge (the print product is offered for free on campus). As a benefit to the general public and advertisers, anyone within a 25-mile radius can also view the website free. Anyone outside that radius is prompted to subscribe after three free page views.

Catalino said his goal was to get 100 paid subscriptions the first year; he received 156. …

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