Reuters pauses website paywall amid Refinitiv dispute
Friday 28 May 2021
Reuters postponed the launch of its website paywall following a dispute with Refinitiv over whether it would breach their news supply agreement.
The agency had been planning to start charging for news on Reuters.com from this coming Tuesday. It was not immediately clear how long the delay would last.
It said customers could continue to enjoy its journalism “for free” at the recently revamped Reuters.com website, which was unveiled in April.
In a staff meeting on Thursday, editor-in-chief Alessandra Galloni confirmed that Reuters had paused the launch of the website paywall as well as the introduction of a new legal news section on the website, while discussions with Refinitiv to resolve the dispute were ongoing.
In a statement, a Reuters spokesman said: "We are still working through our plans for the relaunch of Reuters.com as a subscription service." Discussions with Refinitiv were "about our business approach and products, and how we can enhance our offer to all customers.”
The London Stock Exchange, new owner of Refinitiv, said discussions were ongoing. "The foundation of our partnership is strong and we will continue to work together to deliver for all of our customers," it said in a statement.
Reuters reported that the postponement is a setback for the agency’s plans to build new sources of revenue via its website and raises questions about its relationship with its biggest customer. Refinitiv accounts for about half of Reuters revenue. Most of its remaining revenue derives from media agency operations, as well as its growing events business.
Refinitiv was part of Thomson Reuters until Blackstone, a private equity firm, acquired a majority stake in 2018. Blackstone and Thomson Reuters subsequently sold Refinitiv to the LSE, closing the deal in January this year.
As part of its initial separation, Refinitiv struck a 30-year news agreement with Reuters. Reuters News has long been a key distinguishing factor for the business.
Under the agreement, Reuters is guaranteed annual payments of at least $325 million to provide news and editorial content to Refinitiv until 2048.
In April, Reuters announced it would charge $34.99 a month for access to its website, which has been available for free. Chief marketing officer Josh London called it "the largest digital transformation at Reuters in a decade”. ■