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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Up against the wall

Well, good luck with that:

Newspaper company Gannett recently announced that it would be setting up a paywall for four Indiana publications: The Indianapolis Star, the Journal and Courier in Lafayette, the Star Press in Muncie and the Palladium-Item in Richmond, according to Inside Indiana Business.

In a press release, Gannett said part of its plan for expanding capital and strengthening its financial outlook would be to charge for all of its online content "regardless of platform." The plan will also curtail non-subscriber access, a model that it hopes will enable the company to add $100 million to its publishing segment's annual earnings as of 2013.

Actually, I do wish them well. If newspapers don't figure out how to make a healthy profit from digital operations, that will speed up our demise. But I remain skeptical. If newspapers had started charging for online access from the start, people might have been used to it by now. But, stupidly (unbelievably, insanely), our response to the new Internet reality was to offer people the same stuff online for free sooner that we then tried to get them to pay for later. Duh! Now there's too much  information from too many sources, and people expect to get it for free. If I want to know something about Indianapolis or Indiana, I don't have to depend on the Star. Some big newspapers with a breadth and depth pf coverage (like the NYT) or specialized coverage (WSJ) can make a paywall work. But the rest of us? Not so much.


Harl Delos
Tue, 02/28/2012 - 1:50pm

The NYT has a VERY leaky paywall, and even before Murdoch bought it, the Wall Street Journal was making their paywall leakier and leakier.  The technical journals that charge $3000/year or more are trying to get paywalls to work, and failing, which is worrisome because they have no advertising revenue.

The only really successful paywalled sites are those of Janes ("All The World's Navies", etc.)  Even the porn sites would like to take their paywalls down and just sell ads and merchandise, but the age-verification laws make that extremely difficult.

Lancaster Intelligencer-Journal/New Era was quick to go paywall, but it didn't take long for them to realize that they were losing more in advertising than gaining in subscriptions.  The managers weren't allowed to remove the paywall, so they quickly spread the word: hit the ESC as soon as the story appears.

Newspapers faced a similar cisis when radio threatened to eat teir lunch.  That's why Fort Wayne's WGL, named for "Wayne's Great Lady", NS publisher Helene Foellinger, appeared, as did the radio station named WKJG for "William Kunkle's Journal-Gazette".  Radio's been around for 8 decades.  If newspaper companies can't figure out in all that time how to give the news away and turn a profit on the advertising, they're going to find the broadcasters' news sites willing to tutor them.