Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pennsylvania paper is the latest to go behind metered paywall, the latest to hear it from their online readers

Are newspaper executives the most arrogant folk in the world? I personally think they would have a tough time beating out B2B executives for the title of most arrogant media executives, but that is just a personal opinion. The folks in and around Pottsville, Pennsylvania would probably claim that the publishers of their daily newspaper, the Republican Herald, win hands down.
Yesterday the newspaper announced that it would put its website behind a metered paywall, pointing to such papers as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to justify the move.

"For pennies a day, Web readers will be able to access the most complete news report in Northeast Pennsylvania, with all the investigative energy and in-depth coverage that no one else provides. Web readers can still get the gist of the news with free access to our home page, obituaries, classified ads and blogs, as well as any 12 articles a month they choose to read," publisher Henry H. Nyce said in the newspaper's own online announcement.

Readers, allowed to comment online on the announcement, were not thrilled.

"Nobody is going to pay a penny for an online subscription. The Republican Herald is not the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. I'm shocked that you would be so arrogant to make the comparison," wrote one commenter.

One commenter used a bit of snark to write "What, you mean people aren't going to pay to read articles like 'Local Housewives Raise $35 at Ghost Mall Bakesale'?"

With The Republican Herald's flavor of paywall will require even print subscribers to pay, though only $1.99 per month, or $14.99 annually. It is hard to figure why the paper would want to risk losing that traffic for so little revenue gain.

For non-print subscribers, the cost will be $7.99 per month, or $74.99 per year.

The paper also announced an e-edition, but here again the digital publishing solution is a bit lacking: a flipbook from which will cost the same price as the website.

Like most newspaper announcements regarding metered paywalls, the paper's own story plays up the amount of content that will remain free – "he home page, section fronts, obituaries, blogs, classified ads, photo galleries and paid Lifestyle announcements like engagements, weddings and anniversaries will continue to be free – while pointing to other papers who are launching similar paywalls to justify their actions. It is a measure of the weakness of the industry as a whole that no one seems to think these moves are collusion within the industry, such is the desire to see the industry find some sort of solution to its revenue woes.

But the moves are also a sign of the seriously conservative nature of the newspaper industry, rather than try to find inventive digital publishing solutions, the industry generally concentrates on trying to protect print, while trying to get readers to pay for online access (and let's not forget these incredibly weak efforts at e-editions).

Although many of the comments on the story announcing the move, which were universally negative, tried to use logic to talk the paper out of its decision, the one that probably points to the future simply said "See Ya."