Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Urgent: Tallahassee Democrat adds paywall July 1; Web-only access will cost readers $9.95 a month; Florida daily is one of three in GCI making move

Gannett's Tallahassee Democrat said today that it would offer readers three new ways to access news on its website, all going into effect July 1. The daily is the first of Gannett's U.S. community newspapers known to have announced an online pay model, one designed to staunch the loss of revenue to web rivals.

Two other GCI papers are due to adopt a similar model, Democrat Executive Editor Bob Gabordi told a reader in a comment on his blog; he did not identify those papers, and did not provide a timetable, however. A reader told me last week that The Spectrum in St. George, Utah, may be one of the other papers.

The Democrat's new options:
  • Web content (digital-only model): For $9.95 per month, readers can subscribe to,, and the full suite of affiliated websites.
  • Single copy and day passes: Copies of the printed Tallahassee Democrat will continue to be sold in vending machines and through local retail outlets. Readers can also get a 24-hour pass on Democrat websites for $2 per day.
  • Full-media content/electronic delivery (digital and e-edition): For $14.95 per month, readers get all the websites and the e-edition replica version of the Tallahassee Democrat.
Meanwhile, all current home delivery subscribers, will receive "all of our media, in print delivered to your home or office, online on,, and affiliated websites, and through an electronic edition that replicates the print edition on"

Although exclusive local and other website content will require a subscription, the paper says, website users will still have free access to all of section fronts, classifieds, local search and shopping channels, including, but not limited to,,,,, and

In a note signed by Gabordi and Publisher Patrick Dorsey, the paper says: "In recent years, some have openly wondered if the type of journalism that has sustained democracy since the American Revolution can survive. We have innovated in how we deliver news, but have operated under an old business model for how we pay for that journalism."

Their note continues: "Today, we are announcing an historic change in how we do business, becoming one of the first community news outlets to take decisive steps toward protecting the journalism so vital to the social and economic well being of our community, now and long into the future."

Readers generally don't like changes, so it's not surprising that most of the more than 125 comments posted on the announcement so far oppose the new subscription model.

For example, reader PuppetPerson wrote at 7:49 a.m.: "You've GOT to provide a lot more than you currently do in order for this to be viable at all. Did you even ask your customers? I doubt many people would pay half that amount when so much is available for free. ESPECIALLY since as a paying customer, we'd still get bombarded with advertising crap -- I thought the advertising was what kept the content free! I don't want to pay and still end up with browser crashes from pop-ups that my pop-up blocker doesn't block!"

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.

[Image: today's paper, Newseum]


  1. He also mentions in the comment thread that Tallahassee is one of three Gannett papers going paywall. Anybody know who the other two are?

  2. I was told that one of the other two is The Spectrum in St. George, Utah. I've checked their site this morning, but didn't find any similar announcement.

  3. Don't you "erect" paywalls rather than lower them (take them down)? I can only find one other place that uses the terminology that way and it looks mighty familiar!

  4. Good catch, 10:35 am! I've fixed the headline.

  5. Confirmation on St. George:

  6. I'm not sure whether this paywall idea will work or not -- I suspect not -- but one of the good things about having so many properties is it does allow Gannett to experiment.

    So rather than denounce it as idiotic or similar anger, why not let these things play out and we can see, with the industry watching, too, whether a paywall approach on very localized content could work.

    In other words, they are experiments and let us see what happens.

  7. According to an item in the most recent S.C. Press Association newsletter, The Greenville News is the third site.

    Gabordi also added a later comment that St. George is one of the sites.

  8. Bravo to the staff for setting a bold new course and Placing a value on the content they work so hard to deliver! The industry has been waiting for someone to take a courageous step. well done.

  9. If website users still have access to all section fronts, that means they have free access to all the most important stories of the day, whether local, wire, features or sports. I'm not sure I'd care that much about something that runs on B5.
    Good luck with the experiment, though -- newspapers have to try, even if not all the experiments will work.

  10. I'm glad they're trying but they need to significantly reduce the price.

    Also, experiments are great ... except when you're in the market being used as a guinea pig.

    I'm sure the writers and editors at this paper aren't supposed to say, "Don't worry. This is just an experiment. Yeah, it really changes the way we're distributing news in this community ... possibly to the detriment of our overall operation. But, hey, folks in McLean, Virginia, said we had to give it a go. And, if it's like most things Gannett has forced on us, you'll be looking at a completely different model in three months anyway."

  11. Hello, pay wall. Goodbye audience.

  12. @7:15 PM: "Bravo to the staff for setting a bold new course and Placing a value on the content they work so hard to deliver!"

    Want to wager on how highly the readers regard that same content? Why don't you people understand that if the audience sees little value, there is little value?

  13. So the dominant theme appears to be we suck and no one would want to buy our content. Says a lot about how you feel about our journalists who work thier collective butts off. Sites get 400,000 to 2 million unique visitors a month. Why would they do that if the product sucks. Come on people, we have to do something if you still want to be employed 5 years from now.

  14. 11:24 -- You are so right. Because many of us have made a living in the news game for years, we are tempted to argue that what we do is extremely valuable.

    The truth is, news and information has essentially been free for years. Almost no publications or broadcast outlets charge enough to cover the costs of producing and presenting their content. Yes, people are willing to pay for news, but only a fraction of what it costs to produce. The real value in media has always been the fact that it reaches a lot of people and that businesses can use that reach to advertise their products.

    Perhaps if every single news outlet started charging, people would be willing to pay a little bit more, but there's no way we will reach the point where they are paying for everything and giving media outlets a tidy profit.

    As 11:24 said, "The value of something is determined by what people are willing to pay for it." Our expectations and hopes mean nothing.

  15. I think Saridakis was right. Didn't he say in his goodbye letter that paid content on the iPad and in front of newspaper sites will NOT work? Everyone knows in digital that the content that the newspapers are producing is worthless online.

    Jack Williams is busy trying to build out a "paid content" and he is parading around his plan from Martore to Dickey and no one is buying it. This recent launch is proof it will not work.

    We had a meeting last week to figure out how stop this stupid paid content strategy from moving forward.

  16. 5:46 I call bullshit on you. There was no meeting to determine how to stop the paid content initiative. You are flat out lying.

  17. I'm a member of several Gannet Sites including the Tallahassee Democrat and Florida Today (Melbourne Fla) ... Gannet offers a great user friendly system for reader comments, blogs and forums...

    The reporting, well that leaves something to be desired.. It's not at all unusaul for either paper for readers to see a story.. reasearch it on other outlets and come back to the Gannet paper to discuss it.. Some of us are talking about using the free sites like Word Press and simply doing the same thing without Gannet

  18. I will not being paying for the tallahassee democrat online or otherwise. It does not have enough content to ask for such a high price. I will dearly miss the weekly mugshot.

  19. I, too, will not be paying for online access to the Tallahassee Democrat. Just not worth it...there is nothing there that I can't get for free somewhere else.

    Before making this comment, I gave it some time, almost 3 months. Now after 3 months has gone by since the change, I periodically check the homepage. There's not one story that has been of such interest to me to justify the cost...or that I haven't already heard about through other media.


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