The South China Morning Post has made all coverage of the Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong available for non-subscribers.
The news and media industry is constantly looking for new ways to monetize its content following a continuing decline in print sales and online advertising revenue. A short time ago we wrote about Esquire's micro paywall for its popular Falling Man essay, with money raised going to topical charitable causes. The South China Morning Post recently took the opposite tact — making all coverage of the Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong available for non-subscribers.
Starting in late September, many young people began to block the streets around Hong Kong's Central Government Complex to peacefully demonstrate in support of fairer electoral processes. A major news event in the country and round the world, the protests are continuing to this day and the South China Morning Post has been collecting its daily reportage on the event in a special section of its website.
To ensure that citizens remain informed of the important news story, the publication brought all coverage from behind its paywall. Readers usually need to pay HKD 21 to view more than 8 articles per month. On the day the paywall was brought down on Occupy Central stories, SCMP.com actually crashed, indicating the level of interest from citizens. Although the scheme ostensibly meant they were offering content for free, the stunt no doubt resulted in some extra publicity for the newspaper, as well as extra subscriptions for the rest of their content.
The initiative offers a way for publications with subscription schemes to drive extra traffic to their site while also serving a public good. How else can the media monetize digital content?