Zimpapers’ BH24 gives in to the internet. Readers won’t pay for news online?

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar

bh24-logoRecently, Zimpapers, the largest media news organisation in Zimbabwe,  sent out an email to its BH24 newsletter subscribers advising them the email news service was changing from a subscription model to free. BH24 launched last year in July as a subscription and advertising supported newsletter (and website). This shift means the revenue model has now changed to advertising only.

We’re not exactly sure why the change, but we imagine the uptake of the subscriptions wasn’t happening at fast enough a rate, and small numbers make for a difficult ad selling job. By making it free, hopefully subscriptions will pour in, and advertisers will be happy to pay for the eyeballs.

BH24 for free is not itself exactly new; they just hadn’t announced the deliberate shift. A number of people (I’m one of them) were already receiving it free of charge. The announcement however serves as an admission by the media company that people are reluctant to pay for news on the internet, hence maybe sign of a dying model the industry has enjoyed for centuries.

BH24’s competition include Zfn (subscription +ads), Financial Express (Subscription + ads), Bulls n Bears (free +ads), one by Daily News (subscription +ads) and a few others. The oldest is Zfn, followed by Bulls n Bears, then FinX some 3 years ago, Bh24 last year, and recently Daily News. It was Zfn’s mild success in this email newsletter business that we’re sure inspired all the other services that followed. It’s not clear how great the subscriptions are for the others but we will sure try to find out.

This however makes us wonder about the decade+ long global media industry questions:  “will people pay for news on the internet?”. These developments suggest readers are not as willing to pay for words as they are offline. It is the advertisers who are willing, but it’s not for the news they pay, it’s for the readers. Unfortunately, in paying for the eyeballs they also inevitably influence the news, which means the reader doesn’t get the words as pure as they should come.

Readers are fed dirty and cheap words full of the impurities of money and power. But that’s a discussion for another day. For today, go ahead and and tell Zimpapers you want a free daily dose of ‘news’ and ads.


  1. Sam

    Yeah paywalls never payoff it seems. Even at that, people with pro access copy and paste content out on their publications and steal the eyeballs. But now that in-browser DRM is pretty much passed I wonder what paywall 2.0 people will try out. For now, ads ftw

  2. Jimbo

    Zimbos don’t like to pay for stuff, what you also have to consider is that the larger number of people who spend alot of time on the net do not have disposable incomes to be spending on the internet. Add to that a few people have credit cards which are required by most websites to pay for goods or services on the net.