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Posts Tagged ‘paywalls’

Changes Come to The Dallas Morning News. Will They Work to the Paper’s Advantage?

Screen shot 2013-10-07 at 9.33.45 PMJust over the last couple of weeks, The Dallas Morning News has announced that they’re ditching their paywall altogether AND that they’re introducing native advertising on their web product.

First came the news that Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton, also a former DMN reporter, broke about the paper’s upcoming advertorials: “Our approach is straightforward and low-risk by serving up original, high-quality content in a contextually relevant environment sponsored by an advertising partner,” read a press release from the News.

The News‘ official explanation of the jump from traditional advertising strategies to the much-debated but increasingly popular digital native ad plans describes that its first experiment with native ads was a success (This consisted of a story run alongside the DMN’s entertainment content on the GuideLive page called “5 ways to create perfect pumpkins without carving,” written by a local candle vendor, but it appears like any other DMN editorial.)

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No Reader Left Behind: What’s Wrong With a $1,000 Subscription?

It’s nice when a news blog grows up. If you don’t live in New York, or care about its politics, you’ve probably never heard of Capital New York, which was recently bought by Politico. And there’s plans to juice it up, in the style of Politico Pro, by charging an estimated $1,000 yearly subscription. Talk about a paywall.

This is good, because the quality of journalism over at Capital is first rate. It’s already a “must read” for political junkies here. And Politico is on point about using the ‘freemium’ model to make their brand of news a money tree.

But when you make something so exclusive that only Michael Bloomberg can really afford it, how does that fit into the mission of a news blog like Capital, whose mission is, according to their site (emphasis mine):

Capital is an online news publication about how things work in New York, founded in 2010. We report on important local people and institutions, with the aim of sustaining a conversation with a knowing audience about things they don’t already know.

There’s something to be said for running a publication and making it this valuable. But I’m still an idealist. What happens when the cheap content for the poor, but knowing audiences, starts to stink because it’s not profitable? The New York Times costs almost $200 a year, and even they’re launching cheaper products. I’m glad there’s options in terms of business models. I’m just scared about this one.  

 

Image via AMC

Kickstarting Journalism and Climate Change Reporting

I never thought Veronica Mars and long form reporting on climate change had anything in common, but it turns out, they both have the same business model. You want it? You’ll have to pony up for it.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which has been reporting on nuclear weapons, power, disarmament and general military issues surrounding it since 1945, sustains itself with a combination of digital subscriptions, individual donations, and foundational philanthropy. This spring, William and Eleanor Revelle, who’ve led the clean energy cause and have supported The Bulletin with donations and insight on their editorial board, are offering a Challenge Gift. They’ll grant $50,000 and match every donation made to the Bulletin until May 31, 2013 in the hope of raising $100,000 to be used toward reporting on climate change. A week after announcing the challenge, $10,000 has already been raised and Bulletin publisher Kennette Benedict is hopeful that they’ll meet their goal.

It’s a good example of what news organizations need to do to thrive. Here’s why it works:

1) Diversity is Key

According to Benedict, donations and grants like this make her journal work. Individual donations makes up about 20% of their revenues. Ten percent is from subscriptions to digital content and the rest is from philanthropy. When the Post announced its paywall yesterday, the internet was already lamenting its ‘leaks.’

But that is sort of the point. When advertising just doesn’t work, subscription and membership models have to be dynamic. We’ll see how the Post works out this summer. But for niche news, like the Bulletin, there should be options. The Bulletin offers some content, like roundtables and short articles for free. You can buy single articles. Or you can subscribe to the full digital version, as an individual or as an organization. Since their news is, well, news-worthy, they offer free subscriptions for media personnel. So a journalist reporting on climate change or nuclear power can get research from the Bulletin experts.

2) Stay on Your Beat

But to depend on donations from readers, you have to offer good content. Veronica Mars’ Kickstarter campaign worked because they had not just a fan base, but a script ready for pre-production and the big name stars to offer. You can’t start from scratch. Likewise with news. Read more

Can’t We All Just Subscribe? Why ‘Paywalls’ Won’t Get Us Anywhere

Circling in my head this week are two media bits that I probably wouldn’t have paid attention to if I wasn’t still mulling over the state of paid journalism.

The first was an email from Pro Publica, on the tail of its release of “Dollars for Docs,” asking for a donation to help continue the good work. The second was a blog post you can read here about what newspaper execs should really say to users about paywalls.

And here is my conclusion: we have got to stop using the word ‘paywall.’ Now there will be some of you that are in the ‘information wants to be free,’ camp. That’s fine when it comes to transparency and politics, but not so great a business model for news pubs. So let’s stop talking about putting up walls to keep people out. The paywall has only led to griping from consumers who’ve reached their monthly article limit, and unique ways to get around them. We’re wordsmiths, we know words matter, and ‘paywall’ is another relic of the old media-new media debate. Knock it off.

Why can’t we just call it what it is? A subscription. Of course, many in the industry have finally started calling subscriptions (see what I did there?) what they are: a quick fix to make balance sheets look better. They add another revenue source, and that’s it.

Raju Narisetti said in an interview this week:

You have to think of it as a revenue stream from your most loyal people that will help, because it’s a little bit of an annuity, if you will, that will help soften the blow of what’s happening to CPMs of most papers and what’s happening to advertising. It will cushion the blow, it’ll create a new revenue stream, and in time could create more loyalty and potential upselling opportunities for ebooks and events and things like that. But it’s just going to be that — it’s going to be a stream of revenue that you didn’t have, but it’s not going to solve your problems. If anybody out there thinks a paywall is going to solve our industry’s problems in itself, they’re in for a very rude surprise.

Fine, a subscription model can’t be it. And there has to be a way, eventually, to figure out how to make digital dollars with advertising, too. But I think you have to be really cynical about humanity to just assume that no one is going to want to read interesting, enlightening, meaningful content on all the cool toys that tablets will spawn. And that it will be paid for. And that there will be the same sort of selection – from the soapy, poorly targeted tabloids to the wonky and elitist journals — that we  used to have on newsstands. Call me idealist. Call me naive. At least I’m not defeatist.

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Paywall Pace Increases, As More News Sites Limit Free Articles

If you read your local, hometown or regional newspaper online chances are you’ve hit or will soon be faced with a paywall. That’s because an analysis of Newspaper Association of America data by EByline shows news sites have picked up the pace of paywall adoption in recent months. Previously, they found that larger newspapers, especially, have erected paywalls to try and capture some digital revenue after years of fee-free online reading.

Here’s what EByline’s Susan Johnson found:

A few trends pop out of the data (which has a few holes but is otherwise pretty comprehensive): meters galore, discounts for print subscribes are overwhelmingly popular and, most significantly, an accelerating pace of adoption that peaked late last year but is picking up steam again. This suggests that while experimentation with paywall specifics continues, the journalism industry believes they ultimately have a solution to their digital problem.

According to EByline’s reporting, 84 percent of the papers listed in the NAA database as having payrolls use a metered paywall approach, where they let visitors sample a limited number of articles without paying for access or subscribing.

Johnson’s analysis found the average number of free articles a news site allows readers is 11.2. You’ll remember, the New York Times recently lowered its free article count from 20 to 10. So maybe that really is the sweet spot?

Poynter also looked at the data and has some more details about which organizations have instituted payrolls, and who’s at the low end (3) and the high end (25). It notes 156 papers have adopted paywalls, with more already announced but not yet implemented.

The full Ebyline post is worth reading for more information on their analysis and predictions.

YOUR TURN: What do you think of the paywall approach? Inevitable, or annoying? Saving journalism, or hastening its demise? Tell us in the comments, or @10000words