Readers OK with paywalls if given ‘a compelling justification’

Two professors say New York Times execs failed to adequately explain the need for their paywall when it was launched — they simply said it would strengthen the company’s “journalistic mission” and allow “digital innovations — and that other papers should learn from that mistake and do a better job justifying their new charges.

“When [research] participants were provided with a compelling justification for the paywall — that The New York Times was likely to go bankrupt without it — their support and willingness to pay increased,” say Jonathan Cook of Columbia University and Shahzeen Attari of Indiana University. The two surveyed 954 Times readers before the paywall went up and 400 after it was launched. The professors’ report appears in the November issue of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.

* Study finds news consumers accept paywalls if they’re justified (iu.edu)

UPDATE: Cincinnati Enquirer sports columnist Paul Daugherty mentions his paper’s paywall today. “It’s crazy to believe that we can keep giving away something we pay people to produce,” he writes. “We should have started charging a decade ago. …We charge for the print product. Why is this any different?”

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