Home > Editorial, Visual Stimulus > Graphic Friday: Are You Willing To Pay For Local News?

Graphic Friday: Are You Willing To Pay For Local News?

Graphic Friday


Survey results published last March by The AARP Bulletin (PDF) don’t look promising.

The exchange opportunities for local news took a hit this past week when the Record Eagle instituted a limited paywall for local news content. The track record for paywalls succeeding is not promising, particularly when it’s filtering the only content that makes a media outlet relevant. Not knowing the numbers at the Record Eagle, we can’t say for certain the outcome. If they can convince the snowbirds to sign-up, that aging demographic may provide a sense of success in the short-term: the above survey doesn’t show that as likely. However, if the Eagle is trying to build a readership from the next generation, those 40 and under, I don’t know what model they are looking at that shows paywalls are successful.

Why is it important?(Memo to Newspapers: Stop Thinking Like a Portal)

One reason it’s important is because just as the Record Eagle was beginning to really click with its social media outreach & engaging with readers, now its most relevant content is behind a paywall. Online readers are casual, we often don’t even associate a particular story with its source; news is simply online. Social media has helped brand some of that content. How many followers will continue pay attention if the links provided are typically behind a wall?

The opportunity costs are high once you limit exchange opportunities in the commons, and like it or not, the small town newspaper is a pseudo-commons.  However, the opportunity costs are only accounted for if you are aware of the possibilities. The question remains, does the only local newspaper of record realize the potential they had have?

We wish them luck; hope it works.

(FYI, this reminds me of an ask I need to make…next week.)


Your Comments Matter

Comments: we welcome your comments, please don’t be shy. The more questions, perspectives and general participation we have here the better. What’s on your mind?

  1. TC Media Watcher
    January 14, 2011 at 8:46 am

    At a time when the Ticker is poised to eat their lunch, I find this decision incredibly boneheaded.

    I wonder if they’ll be reducing online ad rates to match their lower traffic?

  2. Jodee Taylor
    January 14, 2011 at 8:46 am

    The R-E’s social media is thriving. If like them on FB or follow them on Twitter, you get links to stories that you can read for free. And, in the interest of journalism, you should have asked someone at the R-E for the numbers. We’re in favor of information and transparency, remember? (Meanwhile, next week is filling fast!)

  3. January 14, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Timely! I was JUST thinking yesterday about this as I clicked on a story the RE had Tweeted, only to be able to read the first two paragraphs of it. Did I decide I would find a way to continue reading the story? No. I was just annoyed and decided to find out about the news elsewhere. I’m sure I’m not alone in this sentiment.

  4. January 14, 2011 at 8:50 am

    I agree on the Ticker! Goooo, Ticker.

  5. Jennifer
    January 14, 2011 at 9:19 am

    I won’t pay for the local news online and I think this move is a real shame. Maybe they should have had a poll about this on their website before making the change.
    Yup…go Ticker!

  6. January 14, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Jodee, Thank you for commenting. As stated, I do hope that it works out for the RE. For limited resources, you all cover a lot of ground and some important news-plus your photographers are really good. If your interested in sharing the numbers behind the company’s decision, I’m certain many of us would be interested. The comments section is open 24/7 here on MyWHaT, or if you’d like, I offer you the space for a follow-up post. Send it in anytime.

    I think it’s worthwhile to mention that no one is arguing that you don’t need to get paid; we’re just wondering about the strategy and concerned about the outcome.

  7. Jodee Taylor
    January 14, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    I’ll check on the numbers Monday. You want number of hits or what?

  8. Jodee Taylor
    January 15, 2011 at 7:11 am

    I should add, I don’t have access to the company’s financials. We’re owned by a private corporation. But I should be able to get web stats.

  9. January 15, 2011 at 9:50 am

    Thank you for the offer, Jodee. Volumes to websites are a curiosity that can be overwhelming without context, so no need to go overboard.

    What is really interesting is what the visitor does when they get to a website and some of that is antidotal and interpretive. Are they spending time there, are they following links to other stories or websites, can they comment, are they sharing with others, are they allowed to do any and all of these things. What happens when they follow a link that is behind a wall-do they leave, explore or throw their computer or phone across the room? (Note:RE site isn’t the most phone friendly). What would be a real interesting step is if the RE shared the goals with the limited paywall project beyond the phrase, “we need to get paid.”

    What are the objectives and how will those objectives be measured? What does success look like? Items that I suspect you’ve asked are: what % of online visitors need to pay in order for the RE to generate the income it desires? How much income needs to be generated through the scheme? What percentage of the company’s overall income does that represent? In answering the last question, balancing the risk of losing readers vs. the potential profit would be a very difficult call.

    This site is a place for informed community discussion. Thank you for engaging and offering to help the community understand the direction of our only true local newspaper. There are others sources, but the RE is still the news source of record.

    Also, the link provided by @rhammer on Twitter on this subject is worth a read: Channeling Change. and gets to the crux of the matter with this quote: “The Web is a crowded place for news. Compelling journalism is key to standing out and it is the power of our brands – our reputation – that can spotlight for our audience where they should look for journalism they can trust.”

    Online, content & connectivity rules.

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