The Onion’s international paywall: a surprise success

UntitledWhen the popular news satire organization The Onion modified its website in 2011 and demanded that overseas readers pay for content, many fans were skeptical.

“When I first got blocked because I had exceeded the number of free articles, I was like, what the bloody hell?” said Will Bryant, a longtime fan from London. “I thought it was a joke by the editors or something. Then when I saw that I’d hit a paywall and was now being required to pay to read The Onion, I said no way. Not when I’m used to getting it for free.”

Despite their initial reluctance to pay for a subscription, Bryant and millions of other international readers jumped on board and went along with the plan.

“You know, it just makes sense,” said Kristen Nantes, a professor at the Center for Media and Public Affairs. “What you have here is a news satire organization with a foriegn readership that is fiercely loyal, particularly because of the lack of similar sites. Fans need The Onion’s special brand of humor and they are willing to pay for it.”

The Onion’s paywall and online subscription service have been so successful, in fact, that many real news sites are following suit. The New York Time is just one of many to have used The Onion as a model. “The days of free premium content seem to be approaching an end,” Nantes said. “The Onion has proved this beyond a doubt.”

The Onion was created by two students at the University of Wisconsin in 1988. In 1996 it started publishing content on its website and has since been sold to a media conglomerate.

“It’s only like two pounds fifty a month,” Bryant said when asked if he thought the subscription was a good deal. “Which is a damn steal. I’d be willing to pay much more than like. Like, twenty times more.”