Major Swiss publishers make digital content chargeable

Foreign media companies such as the New York Times have successfully shown the way. Now the major Swiss publishers Ringier, NZZ and Tamedia are following suit. They are about to charge for journalistic content on the Internet.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung will introduce a paywall for numerous editorial articles in October, confirmed Albert P. Stäheli, CEO of the NZZ media group, on Friday at a panel discussion during the annual congress of the Swiss Media Association in Lausanne. "We are correcting the mistake we made in the past of making journalistic content available for free on the Internet," said Stäheli. This change is a challenge for editorial offices. The road is rocky and long. The NZZ hopes that this will give a boost to the media industry.

If the NZZ is successful with paid content on the Internet, the regional daily newspapers of the NZZ Group (including Neue Luzerner Zeitung, St. Galler Tagblatt, Thurgauer Zeitung) could also switch over. The payment models are primarily aimed at active users of news on the Internet.

Ringier prepares for change
Marc Walder, CEO of the Ringier publishing house, pointed out that the Geneva daily newspaper Le Temps had already introduced a paywall on the Internet over a year ago. In the USA, one in three media users already pays for digital content on the Internet.
The New York Times assumes that the renowned newspaper will have more digital subscribers than print subscriptions in two years' time. Ringier expects that the publishing group will continue to offer three quarters of its media content free of charge in future, while the remaining quarter will be paid for.

Convergence in the editorial offices
The Tamedia Group, which owns the Tagesanzeiger among others, announced in the summer that it also wanted to charge for individual articles, but not introduce a general payment barrier. The news platform of Finanz und Wirtschaft, which belongs to Tamedia, is already fee-based. Like all other media companies, the newspapers in the Tamedia Group are in the process of adapting to the digital transformation by merging their print and online editorial teams.

According to Tamedia Chairman of the Board of Directors Pietro Supino, convergence poses huge challenges for editorial teams. This applies not least to managers, who have to deploy their journalists according to their skills. However, the all-round journalist who masters print, audio, video and online will remain the exception. Stäheli, Walder and Supino agreed that everyone involved still had a lot to learn.
The major Swiss publishing houses are investing millions in new media to ensure a successful transition to the digital world. Ringier and Tamedia have so far invested a total of one billion Swiss francs. The NZZ spends tens of millions on this every year. (sda)

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