Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Tip: More paywall sites named -- plus, $3 Sundays?

Add three more names to the list of known sites leading Gannett's broad rollout of paywalls starting Feb. 1, according to one of my readers: Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; St. Cloud, Minn., and Sioux Falls, S.D.

They would bring to at least six the number of sites believed to be making the switch that day. The others are Wilmington, Del., which I wrote about Monday, plus two others that Gannett Bloggers have discussed in earlier comment threads: Brevard, Fla., and Lafayette, Ind.

My tipster reader also says these six sites may boost their Sunday single-copy prices to as much as $3 when the paywalls are introduced. At Florida Today in Brevard, that will double the current price, according to my readers. Any Sunday increase would come as GCI tries to raise overall circulation that day.

GCI's paywall plan is especially noteworthy because it arrives as newspapers everywhere look for new revenue streams to battle declining advertising sales. As the nation's No. 1 newspaper publisher, GCI's decisions are closely watched and frequently mimicked.

Early last month, CEO Gracia Martore disclosed for the first time that most if not all U.S. sites would require that readers pay for full digital access. In remarks to a conference of Wall Street media analysts, she didn't give a timetable, other than to say the move would start early this year.

Pricing remains unclear
She also didn't give details on pricing for digital-only subscriptions. However, at three sites where GCI has been testing paywalls for more than a year, those subscribers pay $9.95 a month, or $2 for a 24-hour "pass."

Under the new plan, non-subscribers would have limited free access, Martore said. Existing and new print customers would get access with their paid subscriptions.

The broad paywall debut follows GCI's test since July 2010 at papers in Tallahassee, Fla.; Greenville, S.C., and St. George, Utah. And it comes more than 16 years after many newspapers began giving away content free online after the introduction of the first commercially viable web browser.

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.


  1. Looks like Media General Newspapers may be going to pay walls as well. I went to my home paper's website yesterday and got a pop-up about how they now allow X number of free views per month. Most of the time I'm going to check the obits (I know, sick), but I do read the occasional story.

  2. Why don't they just price the daily rags at $100?
    They could call them collector's items!

  3. I'm not a circ guy, but if a paywall and higher Sunday price pushes people into 7 day subscriptions with digital access, I'm all for it.

    Our site does a lot of print things that never see the web, and a lot of web things that can't be done in print. The work that our editorial and advertising staff creates does have a value, and there's more that happens in my town than what makes it to Yahoo's news feed each day.

    It's ridiculous to have the digital is the future/print is dead discussion. The delivery method is irrelevant. What should be relevant is content - advertising, editorial, entertainment, whatever - and providing that to the user in several different media is what folks want.

    Data should be free, yes. But a product that turns data into information that the audience can understand, grasp, and use? Well that's added value - and for that added value, we should expect a fair price.

    Consider air - breathe all you want, no charge. But if you want 'specialized' air, say put in a scuba tank or pure oxygen - you'll pay for that service.

    There's a logic block that the same people who want unfettered free access to our work product would laugh in our face if we wanted the same from them.

    Ultimately, everyone has the choice to pay for what they want - or not.

  4. How does one expect circulation/revenue go up when doubling the price of a Sunday paper when your competitor is going to be a dollar less? OK maybe they won't have Local stories but the "local" paper doesn't have much of that anymore either. They both will have basically the same store ads and coupons. Guess which paper people will buy first? And the notion that a ridiculous orice will drive people to online vresions is also laughable. They don't want to, can't, or won't go online. From what I've seen so far they will buy the competition or go back to TV for their news.And delivery is just as important as content. You can have all the content in the world but if it's not in the medium that people want...not what they are forced to buy, it doesn't mean jack. Like putting a million dollar saddle on an old grey mare...all you have is an old grey mare with a million dollar saddle!
    I have a hard time believeing that newspaper people are running the business into the ground after being a successful business for over 200 years. Astounding.

  5. Key questions I keep returning to:

    Why strip-mine the paper's news content for more than a decade and only then ask readers to pay to read it in digital form?

    Shouldn't the strategy be the reverse: charge when content is better -- give away free when it's worse?

  6. I can't wait to get a look at the Gannett paywalls first-hand. The New York Times spent $40 million developing its paywall, and cracking it proved to be childsplay.

  7. Want to crack the paywall at the St. George newspaper? Put the headline into Google, then click from the search results. For example:

  8. Jim - we've created the habit and can cash in now. People who value the digital product, and not coincidentally, can afford to pay for it, will be the ones who climb over the pay wall.

    The people who can't pay for it or don't feel they need local information won't.

    A year after the paywall goes up, Scarborough results will be created showing that the audience that remains is high quality, high dollar, discretionary spenders. Something like that, you can set a decent rate on internet ads.

    The people who choose not to make that investment will get the weekly shoppers... or maybe even nothing. There's no reason to chase after audience that nobody else wants.

  9. It worked in music with the demise of Napster etc. as artists realized they were being ripped off. Not only did they change the culture to require online music files be paid for (with certain illegal efforts to do it for free still in effect today,) but they also sued the people "sharing" multiple files and put the fear of repercussions into the minds of millions of college students.

    Music is indeed a product. So are news stories.

    News happens, yes. But as one poster above put it a trained person who turns "data" (or in this case a news event) "into information that the audience can understand, grasp, and use" is indeed creating a product. If not, everyone should be required to go to that three-hour town council meeting concerning next year's budget, speak with that scientist in his own lingo about that new discovery, go to that murder trial and sit through hours of tedious evidence introduction, etc. - and understand all of it every time without exception. If you want your "news" to be free, that's the price you should pay.

    Which is why I agree with another poster on another thread who said that there should not only be pay walls, but also copyrighted content on them. If someone copies a story and posts on their blog without paying, sue the pants off them. Simple? No. Possible? Yes. And yes, it's sad to think that is the route to take. But that's the world we live in right now. It wasn't done before because nobody had to do it before.

  10. There is a difference between Napster and Gannett. At least Napster had music content that the public wanted to download. Years and years of content/quality reduction and staff cutbacks have left all Gannett newspapers up the creek without much viable that readers would want to purchase.

  11. Recall that many of our papers - from Salinas to Fond du Lac to Lafayette - are still the main/largest news and advertising operations in their locations. Though we've cut staff, what broadcast there is in those towns have often cut deeper. We might be the tallest midget but we still have the best view.

    Call it Local Local Local or whatever, but valuable audience eyes are still interested in long-form investigative reporting on issues in their community - whether on wood or the web.

    Whether we do it or whether a startup weekly eats our lunch - it's our business to lose. For many of us, we still do make a difference for our neighbors.

  12. 7:47 nice try on Fondy. Do they still run press releases verbatim on 1A? And someone would pay to read that on the web?

  13. If your other option is waiting for WTCX to cover what's happening at Merc, yeah - people would pay for it.

    Your choices for 'local' television are GB or Milwaukee - unless there's a Miracle Mile win, they don't know where FdL is.

  14. So, search engines will be allowed to link to the stories. What about this new twist?


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