ST revamp: New digital model to engage more readers

Sharing articles from Singapore's most-read newspaper on social media will become easier, less than a month from now. That's when The Straits Times launches a new metered paywall system that offers readers a number of full articles for free each month.

Currently, the website works on a "freemium" model, under which non-subscribers get only an "appetiser" - they can view only the first four paragraphs of selected news stories.

All other stories, such as exclusive interviews and features, are kept behind a paywall that only subscribers can access.

But when the new metered paywall system goes live at 6am on July 1, all readers will get to access a buffet of full stories from across all sections, and be free to share this content, although non-subscribers will be limited to a yet-to-be determined number of stories in each calendar month.

"ST currently has a lot of quality content locked behind the paywall, which we want everyone to sample," said ST digital editor Eugene Leow. "The new model will also give readers the freedom to choose what stories they want to read, instead of having the editors choose for them under the old paywall model."

Each of the paper's digital platforms will entitle visitors to the same number of articles. This means that the set quota will not be shared across the broadsheet's website, mobile and tablet apps.

Readers directed to the website via social media and search engines like Google will not have those stories count towards their quotas, so as to encourage sharing and higher search rankings.

Readers will be prompted to subscribe once their quota is hit. It costs $28.65 a month for The Straits Times All-in-One Package, including ST's print product and unlimited digital access.

Aside from the move to the metered paywall, the new ST will feature a faster, sharper and more stable experience on the paper's website and mobile apps.

Readers will also get targeted stories served to them, based on their previous browsing habits.

Mobile specialist Tigerspike, which is also developing the ST smartphone and tablet apps, is building the metered paywall.

Singapore Press Holdings chief executive Alan Chan said: "The metered paywall will also extend The Straits Times' reach to non-subscribers, giving them the opportunity to enjoy its valued content."

Straits Times Journalist of the Year Toh Yong Chuan, 45, said: "Which journalist doesn't want more readers reading their stories? The more the better. The metered paywall allows that by expanding readership without eroding the newspaper's revenue from advertisements."

AUDREY TAN