Business Day’s paywall is no longer operational, and hasn’t been for some time, but will be back in place soon, says Times Media Group’s CEO, Andrew Bonamour. Glenda Nevill reports.
The Media Online noticed in April that BDlive’s limit of six free stories per month no longer seemed to be in effect, allowing users of the site unlimited access to its content. Several attempts to get answers from the newspaper’s editor, Songezo Zibi, as to why the premium business news site’s content was now freely available failed. And questions relating to whether the departure of the site’s two top digital men, Steve Matthewson (now at The Guardian in the UK) and Riaan Wolmarans (head of content at MetropolitanRepublic), who drove the title’s ‘digital first’ strategy, and whether this was the reason content was now available went unanswered.
Sources claimed the site, built at great expense by overseas developers, was too complex for available staff to deal with, hence the wall coming down.
But Bonamour said Business Day content on BDlive, as well as the Financial Mail, would soon be going back behind a paywall. “The BD paywall was temporarily taken down due to back end system changes (changing from one system to another). This process took longer than we envisaged and had nothing to do with people leaving,” he said. Bonamour did not confirm when the paywall would be back in place.
More recently, a new site became operational for the Sunday Times, too. Previously, the Sunday title’s content was housed behind an impenetrable paywall, with absolutely no stories accessible, except for a chosen few published on the TimesLive website.
Bonamour confirmed the Sunday Times now had a new site. “Sunday Times content is behind a paywall. It has a certain amount of free stories in front of the wall,” he told The Media Online, adding that “There is now less copy in front of the wall than before we launched the new site”.
Bonamour said TMG’s digital strategy is a “constantly evolving business and we are in the process of repositioning some of the products in our stable. We will make announcements on this when we are ready to do so”.
In May 2013, then editor of Business Day, Peter Bruce, launched the BDlive paywall and kicked into a massive subscription drive that encompassed digital and print content. Until then, registered BDlive readers enjoyed unlimited access to content on the website as a means of entrenching the brand online and building up a loyal audience.
“It has become unsustainable to make freely available online the content for which print readers are prepared to pay,” Bruce said at the time. “The reality is that robust, good quality and independence come at a cost. There is growing awareness of this globally and there are many examples at media firms much bigger than ours where subscription models are finding traction,” Bruce said at the time.
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