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PR pro’s share the impact of paywalls

It’s no secret newspapers are increasingly adopting paywalls in an attempt to bring in more revenue. But while there are many avenues in the media for PR professionals to get exposure for clients, newspapers may become a limited source, at least online. inVocus received mixed responses when we asked PR pro’s to share their take on the paywall and its impact on campaigns:

Audra Hamlin, Founder and CEO of HKC Media

“To be able to view the articles written, most reporters will send you the article so you can repost it etc. The only thing that worries me about this is for the newspapers. I feel like they are cutting off their own foot.  If you make it difficult for others then they will find another means to get the word out!  Blogs and radio and podcasts are excellent ways to still gain exposure and if they make it easier then that is where we will go… The solution to this for me is to provide options, meaning using quotes from the article in other media and exposure in other media.”

Dave Clarke, founder/lead strategist of AuthenticMatters

“Honestly, if you’re focused and targeted about the audiences you’re trying to reach and drive to the top of the customer acquisition funnel, paywalls are somewhat obsolete. It all comes down to understanding the audience. Paying for content is a signal of committed interest. The consumer values it that much. It’s something that they really care about. And if your product, story, cause, etc. is relevant to that outlet, you can sort of think of the paywall as the qualifier. It weeds out those not likely to convert, giving you an audience of high value. And in a way, this teaches smart, well thought out pitching – not spray and pray. If I’m pitching golf clubs and hardcore, super-focused TheGolfAuthority.com (not a real site, I don’t think) has a paywall, but a rabid, loyal readership, I’m working for that over a broad, borderline general interest sports site that doesn’t have a paywall – even if the unique monthly visitor numbers are in favor of the latter. It’s all about knowing who has the eyes and ears of your target audiences and which of those are likely to fill the top of the funnel.”

David E. Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, LLC

“Print is out and online is in when it comes to newspapers and magazines. As a result more publications are setting up paywalls to build subscribers and generate revenue from the Wall Street Journal to the Tallahassee Democrat, it is the trend of the future and where all publications will eventually be. Yet the impact it is having on public relations campaigns are minimal. Because news goes viral, paywalls have not had that much of an impact on media strategies for our clients. We find that most of the influencers we are seeking to have an impact with are subscribing to the paywall and often the story goes viral with bloggers. The key is to have a story that is newsworthy and stands out.”

Jerome Cleary, CEO of Publicity and Marketing

“My clients have suffered by not getting the premium exposure one would normally get with access to anyone online with sites that have no paywalls blocking readership. If there is a money-to-pay hurdle to read, then many people just choose to opt out and not pay and never read the story my client is in. I have heard complaints because my PR clients know the difference today in 2012 of what they would normally get in the past where their business would reflect telephone calls and email inquiries… I do find myself contacting many lower end and smaller news sites and organizations since they do not have paywalls and a good news story is always still a good news story.”

Mario Almonte, managing partner at Herman & Almonte PR

“I’m a managing partner at Herman & Almonte Public Relations, an independent firm in Manhattan. The internet has actually revolutionized the clips-gathering part of PR for the better. We used to pay thousands of dollars to independent firms to clip articles for our clients – and they weren’t always very reliable. Now, most of those clips come into our email boxes free through Google or Yahoo, plus a host of other free alert services for different types of online content – such as videos. As things now stand, we most likely catch more than 70% of all of our clients’ mentions, since most publications have an online presence – an exceptionally efficient number, considering that in the past, clipping services got about 30% or so.

Should all newspapers go 100 percent behind pay walls (unlikely, since they could never complete against free news sites such as MSN, Yahoo and countless blogs and social media sites), we’ll just have to resort to paying for the clips again, and it will be business as usual. For our clients, we would probably advise them not to bother paying for the clips, unless it’s really special, like the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. At this point, except for the specialized trade publications, the best measure of PR penetration is how the story plays in blogs and social media.”

Stan Steinreich, president/CEO of Steinreich Communications Group, Inc.

“We place stories based on the value of the news organization and their audiences. In some ways, the paywall is even better, because it means that their audiences are even more committed as they are willing to pay to read the material. It’s like the old dilemma of a shopper, versus a paid weekly.”

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