Globe and Mail pay wall comes down

I don’t do this a lot, but I just thought I would point out for those who might be interested that the Globe and Mail — which happens to be my employer — has removed the pay wall that used to block access to a lot of the paper’s online content. All of the columnists are now free to all readers, as are the horoscope and the crossword puzzle (which, as most journalists know, are the features that most readers really want). As the announcement on the Globe’s home page describes it, this means that all of the paper’s columnists “can join the fray and add their talented voices to the freewheeling conversations of the Internet era.”

Why did the paper decide to drop the wall? Without going into too much detail, my understanding is that we did it for the same reason the New York Times did: while the Insider Edition (as we called it) made money for the paper, the number of subscribers who were opting to pay for that content wasn’t growing, or at least wasn’t growing quickly enough to make it a very attractive business. Eventually, I think, senior editors decided that we would be a lot better off opening the doors and allowing people to link to our pay-walled content.

I haven’t seen recent numbers, but within a few months of the NYT dropping its wall, traffic to the site appeared to have surged. Whether the Times has been able to monetize all of that new traffic — and thus make up for the lack of a pay wall — is something I don’t know. But at least now they have a chance to grow that instead of managing what had become a slow or no-growth business, and so do we (the Globe continues to have a subscription product online, now known as Globe Plus, which includes the finance site GlobeInvestorGold and an “e-Edition” of the paper; access to the archives will also still cost a fee).

It’s interesting to look at some of the more than 180 comments that have been posted on the story since it went up first thing this morning: while most are of the “thank God you finally saw the light” variety, there are some who are less than enthused. One commenter says:

“I’ve long since found online alternatives to the Globe’s old ‘insider’ features. You can’t shut us out for a few years and then expect us to come back just because it’s free. You’re not the only game in town, and you’re going to have to offer us something genuinely new and original to get us to come back on a regular basis.”

Some commenters wish that we would go even further.

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