Wednesday, December 17, 2014

UPDATED: No blood in ants -- the free (for now) edition

UPDATED: No blood in ants -- the free (for now) edition

 

How much would you pay to read this blog?

The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News will split from Philly.com in early 2013, Meg Heckman reports. Philly.com general manager Steve Alessi tells Heckman the new sites will have paywalls.

All three entities are owned by Interstate General Media, which purchased them in April. IGM spokesperson Mark Block confirms the report. There will be three websites, with philly.com remaining open access, unlike the new sites for the Inquirer and the Daily News, which will both have paywalls.

“The precise launch date is not confirmed, but our time frame is first quarter 2013,” he writes in an email to Poynter.

Actually, in all candor, I have no idea which side of the paywall Attytood will land on. They haven't talked to me about it. They last time an editor talked to me about the blog -- at least in terms oif what to put on it or not put on it -- was probably in 2007. Seriously.

I will say this: Paywalls are a tricky business. It's one solution to the central problem, which that almost everybody wants some kind of journalism -- whether it's football coverage or zoning board stuff (yes, somebody wants that) or cheesy gossip -- but almost nobody wants to pay for it. Ironically, proving that in this strange media environment information can come from strange places, it was Gawker that just last week did the best overview on paywalls, and what works and what doesn't:

3. This does not mean that paywalls will work for everyone. Paywalls will work for content that is worth paying for. An easy way to determine whether content is worth paying for is to ask: is content that is more or less the same freely available at a million other places online? If so, you should not put your content behind a paywall, because people will just click somewhere else for it. When a media outlet evaluates itself in this way, it is necessary for its editors and executives to momentarily suspend their egos.

4. Examples of media outlets that can support paywalls: high quality national newspapers (NYT, WSJ, probably the WaPo, and... ?), sites that offer quality financial news to an audience for whom a paywall's cost is negligible (WSJ, FT, Bloomberg), sites that cater to very specific niche audiences with highly specific news that can't be easily found elsewhere (Politico, trade publications of all types, small local newspapers), sites offering very high quality proprietary longform journalism published on a frequent basis. Additionally, magazines that maintain their quality should be able to offer online subscriptions to their loyal subscriber base.

5. Examples of media outlets than cannot support paywalls: mediocre or [bleep]y newspapers that have decimated their newsrooms, [bleep)y magazines with little quality content, sites full of mostly opinions and listicles and other entertaining but easily reproduced things of that nature, most blogs. For example, Gawker Media—a fine, fine company that entertains millions of readers online every month—would not be a good candidate for a paywall, simply because no matter how good our content is, a paywall would immediately cause readers to go and seek out similar (lower quality, of course) content elsewhere online, where it is freely available. The situation is different for, say, Jane's Defence Weekly. The fact that readers like you is not enough to support an online paywall; readers must need you.

So I will leave it to you, dear (current) reader, to decide where the Inquirer and Daily News fit into this list. You may also ask if a comparable city has tried this, and how has that worked out? The answer is "yes":

The Boston Globe instituted a similar pay site in 2011, putting much of its premium content at BostonGlobe.com and leaving Boston.com with “teasers for all Globe stories and a select number of full stories, as well as hyperlocal sites, sports, entertainment and travel coverage,” as Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman wrote at the time. Globe Editor Marty Baron told Sonderman the premium site would be “a true reading experience for people who like and appreciate journalism and value our editorial judgments.” The premium site has about 25,000 subscribers.

Is 25,000 a lot? Is it enough? Can we do better in Philly? Stay tuned! It's a brave new world.

UPDATE: Daily News Digital Editor Josh Cornfield points out that while users of PhillyDailyNews.com will have to subscribe to access the website, the site will offer extra benefits to its members, taking it beyond a basic paywall. Think more “velvet rope” than paywall.

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Will Bunch
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