Business news organisation Quartz has removed its paywall on the website, granting "the lion’s share" of its journalism to readers for free.
In 2019, Quartz developed a dynamic paywall. This was a personalised approach designed to give the reader a certain number of free articles based on their likeliness to pay. Once they hit their quota - that could be seven or 14 articles depending on who is reading - they are then asked to become paying members at a price point of £12 per month.
With the new system - a registration wall - all readers, regardless of who they are, get to read four articles a month for free. After clicking on the fourth article, a non-dismissable email registration will pop up, asking the reader to sign up to their main, free newsletter, Quartz Daily Brief.
Those who sign-up to the newsletter receive a rundown of the big headlines of the day, and the ability to read the website for free.
This move will not impact the pre-existing Quartz membership meaning readers will still be required to pay for premium emails, including The Forecast and Weekend Brief. The newly launched Quartz Africa membership will continue as well with all its benefits (1 per cent of their membership fee will also be pledged to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, in keeping with Quartz's 'Making Business Better' commitments).
The move represents a partial return to the free at the point of access model that Quartz launched with in 2012. That does not necessarily mean the considerable resources put into developing a sophisticated paywall have been binned. CEO Zach Seward told Journalism.co.uk via email that, for now, the new system relies on much of the same infrastructure.
"The good news is that most of the work we’ve done on our dynamic paywall will be equally relevant to determining when and how to show the registration wall," he explains.
"Instead, the data that help determine if someone is likely to pay are also very useful in determining if someone is likely to sign up for an email (and also which email, etc.)"
Once they are signed up for the main, free newsletter, Quartz Daily Brief, the news organisation is betting readers take the extra step to become paying members. In other words, newsletters will become the primary "ask" for readers to start paying for news, rather than a cold paywall.
It's taken this decision because its newsletters are responsible for 75 per cent of its membership conversions. Seward also feels that the ceiling for growth in memberships, which stands at 25,000 paying members, has yet to be reached.
"We hope it ensures that we are properly introducing ourselves and allowing readers to get to know Quartz before bringing up the idea of becoming a paying member," says Seward.
"That does seem like the right order of things—instead of screaming “pay us now" at readers who might not even know who we are."
The news organisation also says dropping the paywall is a result of its growing international readership and mission to best serve this audience by making its journalism accessible to everyone.
As part of this announcement, Quartz has also launched the Guide to Making Business Better, where professionals can find insights, guidance, and predictions on the hardest challenges facing mission-driven businesses. The guide draws on Quartz’s 10 years of journalism and its newsroom's obsessions or 'beats', which include fixing capitalism, the purpose of companies, the climate economy, and the future of work.
Since the advent of online news, there has been much criticism of publications who make their content free to access, as many believe it reduces the perceived value of news among audiences. Seward argues this is a different proposition altogether and has no such concerns about how it could backfire and stop readers from taking up memberships.
"I worry about blurring the notion of journalism's value, which should be about public service, and the clearing price for a piece of content on the web, which I have full faith in the markets to determine.
"Lots of journalism is valuable, worth producing, and worth supporting, but not necessarily worth charging to read if you can fund the production of it with a different model."
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