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Matthew Swift at Malofiej 23

The subscriber as the priority for a successful Paywall model

March 19, 2015

Matt Swift

After the two first talks and a delicious coffee break, Matthew Swifttook over the Malofiej23 stage to present his talk “Life behind the paywall“. Matthew, who has been working in British newspapers for 16 years, is currently the Graphics Editor at The Times of London.

Matt graduated in Visual Communication Design at Middlesex University, and soon after he started to contribute with illustrations and graphics to books, magazines and exhibitions. He actually began his newspaper career as a freelance illustrator until making the shift to newspaper graphics in 1999, starting at The “Express” newspaper, under John Lawson, moving onto “The Sunday Times” and then to “The Times” under Geoffrey Sims. He was involved in the launch of the award winning life and science magazine, Eurekahere you can see some of those infographics Matt was involved in, alongside Matt Curtis (art direction) and David Loewe (design).

At the center of Matt’s presentation, the implications of making infographics that stay ‘hidden’ behind a paywall. These works receive a lot less visibility from the ‘outside world’ since they aren’t shared so easily in social media channels. But the message inside the Times is clear and simple: Pay, and this is what you’ll get. This model of focusing on offering exclusive content to subscribers seems to be working, since Matt mentioned that The Times has been growing in revenue for several consecutive months – a unique situation in the British newspaper landscape, according to him.

Besides offering exclusive content, there’s also the concern of providing a good user experience, with speed and usability issues at the core of the online development. He shared a couple of examples of the interactive being produced by him and his colleagues – they’ve “banned” Flash, so everything is made using the Adobe Suite -, like this one about the Cricket world cup:

One of the works presented by Matt Swift at Malofiej23
One of the works presented by Matt Swift at Malofiej23

But the best was yet to come, when Matt stated that he feels “uncomfortable” with some of the pieces he did, since many times there was simply not enough information or details to actually do an infographic; yet, editors demanded it, and they almost have to “guess” the facts to do such graphics.

This was followed by several messages on Twitter, something that is not really that much of a surprise for those working inside newsrooms – after all, we are talking about an issue that is still common in many graphic departments, where the editors impose the need for a chart, a map or a full-scale graphic to embellish the page.

You can follow Matt’s updates on Twitter (@m_r_swift), and stay tuned for more Malofiej23 here on Visualoop.

Written by Tiago Veloso

Tiago Veloso is the founder and editor of Visualoop and Visualoop Brasil . He is Portuguese, currently based in Bonito, Brazil.