Friday, February 24, 2012

Mail | Paywalls a 'bold' move, but to succeed . . .

In a comment today, Anonymous@11:54 a.m. says the paywall now being rolled out company-wide at community papers is a "very bold and possibly decisive move." They continue:

However, as many have noted, we have to follow up with rich and unique local content to make it worthwhile.

In bigger markets like Detroit, Westchester, Cincinnati, Arizona, other entities can and will arise to offer local coverage and compete. So the bar will be higher there.

But in most of our smaller markets, Gannett papers are the only real info-game in town, and local politics, local scores, what your neighbors are doing and saying, may very well be worth paying for.

But no one except city hall and school board types will pay for what we offer now. We have to greatly boost the quality of our content. Then we really may have something to build a digital future upon.

As always, other views are welcome. 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. Well said. I hope Martore and all the rest of Gannett's upper management understand this. The future is now.

  2. This will be the death of azcentral in Phoenix. Why corporate would want to take the legs out of one of the most popular local news sites in america is a mystery to me.

  3. Enquirer editor Carolyn Washburn just finished a chat defending the paywall to readers. Lots of corporate-speak from her and lots of complaints from readers. Doesn't look good for paywall prospects.|dnmiss|umbrella|1

  4. Bold? They sat back timidly and watch industry leaders like the NYT and others pave the way and then decided to be "bold" and jump into the paid space. Copycat - yes. Bold - nah.

  5. Smaller markets are not immune to competition, in fact they are likely to be the quickest and easiest targets. Dozens of start-up independent online news publishers have created revenue models that work in all sizes of communities, including as small as Howard Owens' The Batavian in Batavia, New York, population 16,000.

    1. This is very true. Where I am, Gannett has the newspaper but there are at least 2 other news sources (not counting TV), including radio and they all have websites.
      The "hard" news online is usually a press release. Those are sent out to all media so what's the paywall value?
      And while this is anecdotal, I already see most of my 2,000+ Facebook friends usually posting those news links from the alternative media (or out of town TV stations) instead of the local paper.
      If the local paper puts what it has now behind a paywall then I could see it dropping completely off the online radar. Unless of course they let people view photo galleries for free still....

  6. Go 1:56. Copycats indeed that don't have content good enough to pay for.

  7. Ya gotta give the customers something worth paying for. With nobody left in the newsrooms, where is that valuable content going to come from?

  8. Agreed 2:38 and 5:28. My site is in a medium-sized city. We compete with three TV stations and a couple of niche news/info providers. The TV stations' Web sites aren't great, but they're FREE. Right now we don't offer anything beyond what TV does for breaking and community news because the reporting/editing ranks are so thin. "How thin are you?" the audience says.
    So thin we don't have a police reporter at all some days. The solution? An editor keeps an ear on the scanner and a reporter who lives 30 miles away sometimes is on call at night.
    We have the occasional splashy, well-planned, labor-intensive packages but nothing consistent that would encourage people to pay for the Web site.

  9. I don't know how they are planning to handle the pay walls, but what might lure readers is the concept that if you pay a subscription fee or one Gannett paper, you get access to stories from all Gannett papers, or all Gannett content.

  10. Most media organizations will follow.,the free ride is over

  11. My mid-sized community paper is out-gunned daily by three better staffed TV stations. Every day is hand to mouth to fill the tiny news hole we still have. Between the hugh bump in subscription prices and a pay wall on the website it's hard to see how we won't lose more than half our already dwindling circulation. It's quite sad.
    Happy talk by management is nauseating.The remaining best people are taking the buyouts. But hey, iPhones are on the way!

  12. The Big Biz Professor2/25/2012 3:50 PM

    They should have done this 8-10 years ago when GCI still had content that was worth paying for. Not to disparage the efforts of the people still hard at work, but the ranks have been decimated, the newshole has shrunk and the physical paper has gotten smaller while the price goes up. Readers (who still get the print product) complain about price vs what they perceive as value for the money. It isn't just GCI, the whole media industry dropped the ball when it came to monetizing the internet and charging for out online product. We have an entire generation that has gown up expecting free content on the web.It will be a hard sell to convince them to otherwise, especially if it's easy to get around the paywall. Add to that the fact that GCI STILL lacks a smart phone app. Other papers are into their third and fourth generation apps. Gannett hasn't launched its first.
    I don't think it's all in reach.


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