McClatchy added 10,200 subscriptions in March, despite dropping the paywall on COVID-19 content across its network of 30 local publications.
That’s according to a memo to staff from Kristin Roberts, McClatchy’s vice president of news, obtained by Axios.
Subscriber pageviews are up 46%, Roberts added.
McClatchy has now decided to bring back its paywall.
“Since our coronavirus coverage began, 13% of views were by people who would have been stopped by the paywall if it had been up,” Roberts wrote to staff. “If we converted even a tiny fraction of those people, we would have generated more in subscription revenue than we are earning on the per-pageview (‘programmatic’) revenue.”
Programmatic revenue has dropped more than 15% in a single week, Roberts said.
Two weeks ago, McClatchy president-CEO Craig Forman explained in an op-ed the decision to drop the paywall.
“We see this as an important part of our public-service mission. In times of crisis, news can be as important as the most basic utility, and we will stand shoulder to shoulder with vital community organizations and services to do our part," he wrote.
At the time, Forman said McClatchy newsrooms had produced more than 2,500 COVID-19 related articles.
Axios reports that certain breaking news articles will remain free to access on McClatchy sites.
Editors at local publications will decide which articles are put in front of the paywall.A number of publishers have suspended or relaxed their paywalls around stories about COVID-19, including The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, which have created dedicated pages featuring the latest updates about the virus.