Thursday, April 19, 2012

Paywalls | Lansing offers glimpse of new prices

The weekly Lansing City Pulse has just published the Lansing State Journal's new newsstand and subscription prices, once a paywall goes up May 1 -- the most detailed breakdown I've seen for a Gannett paper yet:
  • Sunday newsstand prices jump to $3 from $1.50. (Weekday newsstand prices remain $1)
  • 7-day home delivery, when paid automatically: $23, up 41% from $16.31
  • Sunday-only home delivery: $12, up 35% from $8.91
  • Wednesday through Sunday home delivery on auto pay: $17, up 31% from $13
These plans will all include free access to digital editions, including Web and mobile devices such as tablets. Digital-only will be $12 monthly.

Until now, of course, digital access has been free. But like all of Gannett's 80 U.S. community papers, the Michigan daily is erecting a paywall. The result: Readers will be socked with price increases without any discernible additional benefit.

Lansing one of 17
But for GCI and other publishers, charging for digital access is a must if the company expects to get revenue growing again. Corporate has told Wall Street that it expects an additional $100 million in earnings by 2013 under the new paywall plan. (GCI reported $1.1 billion in circulation revenue for all of 2011.)

Lansing is one of 17 GCI sites adding paywalls May 1.

Monday, U.S. newspapers President Bob Dickey told Wall Street analysts that GCI has already seen overall 29% subscription revenue increases at sites that have instituted paywalls and higher subscription rates.

Major investors responded less-than-enthusiastically, however, after GCI reported first-quarter financial results that day: Shares got pounded, falling 8% when trading closed at $13.89 a share.

This morning, they recently traded even lower: at $13.74. (This Google Finance table shows daily highs, lows, and closing prices for the past year.)

NYT Co. shares jump
Also today, shares of the New York Times Co. were up as much as 7.4% in early trading after the company reported better-than-expected first-quarter earnings.

Excluding a $30 million gain on the sale of its regional media group and other items, the newspaper publisher earned 8 cents a share, topping the consensus analyst estimate compiled by Thomson Reuters of 2 cents a share.

The company added a paywall at its New York Times flagship a year ago.

To be sure, NYT shares are still down 27% from a year ago vs. a much smaller 9% decline for GCI.


  1. "GCI has already seen overall 29% subscription revenue increases at sites that have instituted paywalls and higher subscription rates."

    How is this promising news? The paywall and jacked subscription rates are two different things entirely.

    First, have digital ad revenues declined from the reduced page view inventory inherent with paywalls? The answer is yes, but how much?

    Second, if the median subscription rate increase is around 35%, a 29% rev bump strongly suggests the company is losing subscribers and perhaps lots of them - especially if you take into account the brand-new paywall revenue.

  2. Good luck, guys. I honestly think people will walk away in droves. MLive is providing at least as much content and its free. I don't see how this is going to work.

  3. "But for GCI and other publishers, charging for digital access is a must if the company expects to get revenue growing again"

    The only way to start revenue going again is to put out a paper that people want to buy and can afford. want your digital, fine, but turning your back on print is like cutting your nose off to spite your face.

  4. Each paper's website will have to offer two things: 1) stuff they won't find in the print edition and 2) material they won't find on any other website.

  5. This is a neat and exciting time! People will pay for content. Way to go guys in Lansing! :)

    1. BS ... Greater Lansing HATES the LSJ, especially when they destroyed the community weeklies 6 years ago. is going to destroy the LSJ's market share. And scene.

  6. 11:57, what content will be on the Lansing website that folks either won't be able to see in their paper or get free on another website? Tell me what's on their website that is unique because that's the only way people will pay.

  7. Gannett is too late to the paywall party.
    What should have been done is to slowly put up the paywall about 5-7 years ago, at the latest.
    Start with each community's "premium content", and slowly expand it once a year to where all content could be behind the paywall now.
    But since IDIOTS run this company, they decided to go all in at the peak.
    And everyone who buys stocks knows what happens when you do that.

    Schadenfreude, Gracia!

  8. "overall 29% subscription revenue increases"?
    I'm betting the devil is in the details.

    As well as in the speaker.

  9. NYT values great journalists and quality content along with smart distribution. No wonder they had a positive first quarter while Gannett suffered again.

  10. depending on the town you live in, provides better coverage for free.

    of course, i live in a major media market that Gannett divested itself of back in 1994. thank god.....

  11. Content had BETTER improve! And to do that, they need not just more warm bodies, but also warm bodies who know what they are doing. It has nothing to do with age. It has everything to do with getting the right number of people with the right abilities to handle the various tasks that are necessary on a daily basis. You don't cross-train the 10 people left to do 10 different jobs that should in reality take a staff of 25 people. No matter how good workers are, if they are overwhelmed 1) mistakes will happen (Cincy expletive, etc.) and 2)They will eventually get fed up and either stop caring to go the extra mile or seek alternative employment.

    I applaud paywalls. But it should have been done YEARS ago before the IDIOTS at Crystal Palace gutted about half the staff!

  12. Strategically, I guess, bundling digital into a higher print subscription is smart.

    Had Corporate simply told customers they would need to start paying for digital access on top of their existing print subscriptions, many customers might have simply stayed with their existing print subs and skipped digital altogether.

    This way, Corporate forces through big print subscription increases, using the carrot of digital access.

    The question, ultimately, will be how many people drop their print subscriptions and opt for the lower digital-only access.

  13. the rest of the world is being held hostage by Gannett for the stories about tom, dick and harry's dog that got stuck up a tree. only reason to go there is Joe Rexrode and his Hey Joe blog, but that's only of it. I won't pay for all the other stuff that I'll never look at.

  14. What other papers will be adding a paywall on May 1?

  15. It's not a pay wall people! It is subscription based content.
    Advertisers will get far greater reach because the readership numbers will skyrocket.

  16. 8:27 What color is the sky in your world? None of the papers to date have seen anything other than decreases in their numbers.

    After years of newsroom attrition, the papers are barely able to keep pace with other local media outlets.

    And the other dirty little secret about this new model is the $3 Sunday paper. Goodbye single copy and goodbye ad revenue.

  17. 8:27 said: It's not a pay wall people! It is subscription based content. Advertisers will get far greater reach because the readership numbers will skyrocket.

    I don't know which corporate robot said the above, but it is a perfect example of why this thing won't work -- there is little or no worthwhile content to warrant a paid subscription because the geniuses at the top have systematically purged the premium content providers from the company!

  18. They are leaving in droves. Letters hit. Immediate stops, downgrades, price protection discounts and impending stops when balances runs out are high. This only applies to the patient people that will hold for that long. Many will let bill lapse, write on their bill or call later.

  19. I hear it's has been nearly 20 years since a Sunday rate increase. Knowing that I would be foolish to not expect an increase.

  20. Does anyone know the timeline for the rest of the paper the rest of the year?

  21. 4:41 -- I honestly don't know what will happen with the weeklies, speaking as someone who was laid from one not too long ago. LSJ gutted the weeklies, ordering a 75-25 ad-to-news ratio. I don't think LSJ cared much about them, and still don't. Expect them to disappear when LSJ goes all online.

  22. I was already pretty fed up with the LSJ lack of quality content and lack of attention to real local news and events. I am very digital oriented, but I am NOT interested in paying a 23% increase in my subscription rate. I don't need the LSJ's digital access and I don't see that there is any sincere effort to increase real quality and stories of importance.

    I have no interest in contribution more to the Gannett stockholders!!

  23. Just got our bill for Sunday delivery in GL. Up 57% from $8.91 to $14. We'll be dropping it.


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.