Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pay walls coming

They said they were going to do it, and now it's official.

MediaNews Chairman Dean Singleton announced yesterday that the company would begin implementing a "pay wall" at two MediaNews Web sites.

Initially, only the Chico Enterprise-Record and the York Daily Record will see portion of online content restricted to paying customers, but according to Editor & Publisher, the plan may spread to other properties if successful. The Chico Enterprise-Record is located in Chico, Ca., and has a circulation of 27,000. The York Daily Record is in York, Pennsylvania and has a circulation of 55,000. MediaNews says the sites were chosen because of the size of their respective markets.

"We wanted to get sites that were not metro sites for the same reason that you don't open on Broadway," said Howard Saltz, vice president for content development. "But not a site that has Web traffic so small that the change would not affect anything."

Saltz said more sites, including MediaNews Group's larger papers such as The Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News, would likely add a pay wall approach if the York and Chico efforts prove successful: "We are going to be rolling out for the next two years."


Despite the near-inevitable public mutiny awaiting the decision, MediaNews' plan cuts to the heart of the online conundrum. In an environment where advertising is so grossly undervalued, how does a newspaper get paid for the content it produces? Their solution isn't what matters, what MediaNews is trying is an assertion that real journalism isn't cheap, and it isn't easy to produce. Even after being slashed beyond comprehension by layoffs and cutbacks, most daily newspapers still have no peer when it comes to the scope and quality of the news they produce each day. The question is whether or not anyone cares...and perhaps more importantly, will anyone pay for it.

What do you think?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd give ten cents for the reading of this article.

Joe Dickson said...

The punch the monkey ads 'dental whitening' 'refinancing ads' and countless distracting advertising elements that appear slapped on these news sites not only slow down the site but make it uncomfortable to look at.

If media news wants to truly profit from their online ads, placing a ban on crappy national spam ads would be a great way to start.

Imagine if you're trying to sale ad space to a car dealership. the owner seems responsive to the idea until the ad rep shows him the low quality ads that he'll compete with for the space.

A good step would be to remove all non-local advertisements from the paid online subscription.

Cleaning up a sites appearance goes a long way.

Take some time to think about 'design' consumers are using a product, and it should work close to perfectly.

Don't repost content from wire services that compete with local news. If people want wire copy they can go to google or yahoo.

Typography... Newspapers use it in print but you go online and everything falls apart.

Compare these two pages.

Voice of San Diego a non-profit blog that runs on donations.
http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/articles/2009/11/12/education/780calculus111109.txt

Denver Post
http://www.denverpost.com/ci_13767976

simply do a 10 second test by loading each link and stare at the page, ask yourself what you remember.

The voice of san diego is cleaner, less cluttered and advertisements are targeted to a local audience that might actually be interested. sure its not pretty but Its not nearly as bad the next site.

The Denver Post (or any media news product) is slapped together with several (clouds of random text) blurbs, sad attempts at social networking. 80% of the page has nothing to do with the story the reader is looking at.

If newspapers want to really succeed online they need to think about their favorite websites and a lead from what makes them successful.

Customization!

If you're going to charge for the site it better be perfect. Allow users to block or hide content they're not interested.

Why the hell would anyone want to read a mismatched cloud of random lines of text thrown together with no thought what so ever.

It's time for newspapers to take pride in their websites target the content to the reader and stop hitting everyone over the head with everything all at once.

And remember there will always be a free alternative somewhere trying to out do you. They're all just a google search away.

Be realistic, provide free use to print subscribers, and cheap online only subscriptions to non subscribers. ($15 a year might be small but imagine if 1000 people signed up.)

After all Facebook and Twitter are free and simple, but would you really still use those sites if you had to pull out your credit card?

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