Monday, March 25, 2013

Morning Brief: Hearst's SF Chronicle launches paywalled website along side existing free SFGate; Cyprus crisis remain unresolved; GIE Media issues app updates

The San Francisco Chronicle, a Hearst newspaper, this weekend launched a new paid access website. The launch did not go off without a hitch, with the initial news story on the launch itself placed behind the paywall. By late Saturday that was corrected. The new website is designed to be read on any device, though it seems clear that the designers were looking towards small screens as the site offers very few headlines when viewed on a desktop computer.

The new website is especially attractive on the iPad, and this may ultimately have been the goal – to create a paid website for leisure readers while keeping the old website, SFGate, open to all readers. This strategy has been attempted at The Boston Globe, though its success has been rather modest.

The paper is charging for digital access in several new packages: Ultimate Access is priced at $12 per month, though the Ultimate Access plus Sunday, which gives the reader the Sunday print edition, is priced at the same level. Current subscribers to the daily paper will receive access to the new website, assuming they are subscribing at a sufficient level.

The problem the facing the Chronicle's new paywalled website is simply that the paper has not adapted well to web publishing. Few additional stories make it online each day, especially when compared to online only sources. A comparison of sports stories, for instance, finds the SB Nation blogs and CSN Bay Area usually providing more content on local sports teams... and for free.

Latest from Cyprus (I think): Banks in Cyprus remained closed on Monday (a pre-existing bank holiday), and now there is a new €100 ATM withdrawal limit imposed on depositors.

"It seems that the whole process is nearing an agreement," Cypriot parliamentary speaker Yiannakis Omirou said, according to "A proposal is taking shape, an agreement, a program ... that will put in the next half hour, or hour, to the Eurogroup."

Later: The NYT reported late on Sunday that a deal had been reached between the Cypriot government and European Union negotiators. In the end, it appears that the once mighty Cyprus banking sector will be a shadow of its former self, with the Laiki Bank probably being "wound down." The Bank of Cyprus will survive to become the"good bank", but wealthy depositors are to face a huge "haircut" – at a 25 percent levy on amounts deposited over €100,000 (some have speculated that the final amount will be 40 percent). Deposits of €100,000 are likely to be spared any tax levy.

"For the Bank of Cyprus all the calculations will be done and we will ensure that it will become once again a bank that can finance the economy of Cyprus and finance companies in Cyprus," eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem said last night at a press conference.

Apparently the parliament will not need to approve any agreed to deal because, well...

More: The French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici, pouring gasoline on the situation, described Cyprus as a casino economy on the brink of bankruptcy: "To all those who say that we are strangling an entire people, which is immoral, you must nonetheless look at the fact that Cyprus is a casino economy that was on the brink of bankruptcy and we had to, and have to, do something about it... After all, it is a completely rogue economy." (via EnetEnglish).

Nice 25 point summary of events and the background on the story here. But the bottom line is that... it's a mess.

What does this all mean? Well, for one thing, it means that the free flow of capital may be a thing of the past. Writing hours before the announcement of any deal, the NYT's economics columnist Paul Krugman wrote "It will mark the end of an era for Cyprus, which has in effect spent the past decade advertising itself as a place where wealthy individuals who want to avoid taxes and scrutiny can safely park their money, no questions asked. But it may also mark at least the beginning of the end for something much bigger: the era when unrestricted movement of capital was taken as a desirable norm around the world."

Not many media app updates. One of the few publishers to launch updates this weekend was B2B media firm GIE Media.

Their apps for Lawn & Landscape, Golf Course Industry and Pest Control Technology have been updated to add in Facebook sharing enhancements.

One thing noticeably missing, however, are screenshots other than one cover shot in the app descriptions. I'm sure they'll want to correct that.