Politico’s paywall experiment poses a valuable question – at which point does the paywall model become saturated?

Following Politico’s announcement last week that the publication would begin testing a metered paywall system in a handful of states, their media writer Dylan Byers tweeted the following:

I don’t care so much about the question as I do about the idea that most websites producing original content would charge for access. Even if Byers’ tweet was tongue-and-cheek, I do wonder if such an idea could be realistic in the near future.

What kind of websites would be worth charging access for? Any journalistic entity would be an absolute must due to its high cost. Many prominent newspapers have already established a paywall system on their websites, while others such as the Washington Times soon will be.

Would it be out of line for other niche publications to charge for access, such as TMZ, the Verge of SportsbyBrooks? Or how about narrower niche sites like the Daily Kos or Android Central? At some point, the paywall system has to become saturated. I’m not sure there are enough people with disposable incomes willing to pay for all the content they now get for free.

It was much easier for publications, general and niche, to make money in the pre-Internet era. Back then, people relied on the local paper in their city or region for a mix of local, national and world news. Anyone wanting more reading content  subscribed to weekly or monthly magazines.

I’m a semi frequent visitor to Politico, primarily for Dylan Byer’s media content. Depending on what pricing structure and the amount of free access they allow, I doubt I’d consider paying for their content — I already am a New York Times digital subscriber. Not that I don’t think Politico’s content is worth paying for, but after spending $100 each month on my Droid Razr Maxx, $70 towards Dish, the New York Times, Amazon Prime and several podcasts, I would have a hard time adding a CNET, the Verge, SportsbyBrooks, Grandland, or Politico to that list — regardless of how much I enjoy those websites.

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