Going Behind the Wall

We knew it was going to happen eventually. On March 2, 2011 the Canyon Courier, Clear Creek Courant and the High Timber Times are going behind the paywall for all non subscribers. I have mixed feelings about going behind the paywall. On one hand we have been giving away our content for far too long. It costs money to do what we do, plain and simple. When people who are subscribers do not resubscribe at the end of the year because they can just go online and read it for free something has to change. That is a business model anyone can understand. If you are already a subscriber, not much will change. You will still get the paper and you can still read everything online. To read full stories as a subscriber you will have to log in. Your subscriber number is your password. Your email is your user name. Its that simple.

For everyone else, there will still be some content provided for free. Jefferson County government stories and breaking news will continue to be free because we will end up publishing many of the stories in multiple papers, some of which are distributed for free. However, most sports coverage, feature stories and general news stories will only be available to people who have registered and subscribed to, at the very least, the online version. There is a lot of information that will be available to subscribers that you will not find in any other local paper or on any other TV station. This information is valuable and in my opinion should be paid for.

The paywall is not without its problems. There will be the small inconvenience of logging into our website to view all of the content. I don’t see this as an issue and I don’t believe that this will be much of an obstacle to most current subscribers. If you are on your personal computer, just click the “remember my user name and password” box on your browser and that issue will be taken care of. Our online readership has steadily increased as our hard copy subscriptions have fallen. Last time I checked, we still had almost as many subscribers as we have unique web visits on most of our sites. So while the numbers of readers online may fall initially we hope to gain a few subscriptions in the process. Most of our revenue still comes from the print product. It’s a known fact that there isn’t much money to be made on non targeted advertising online. Most papers can’t even pay for the bandwidth they use with what little the online advertising revenues provide.

The idea that other sources will not be able to aggregate our content for free anymore is a small upside. That part I am OK with, especially outlets that have used our content and then been reluctant to return the favor when we needed it. We have broken a lot of stories and have rarely been credited. Some of them might have to work a little harder to find stories in our coverage areas now that they can’t use us.

It will be an experiment for sure. This a learning process. In my opinion, this is the future of all good content. I can definitely see a time when most outlets will have at least some content that will be behind the paywall. The way the economy is, I have a feeling that is coming sooner than later.

EDITORS NOTE: The opinions in this post are mine and do not represent the opinions of Lankmark Community Newspapers Inc. or any of their publications. So don’t go quoting me as a spokesperson, Understand? See an official story from the Editor here.

2 thoughts on “Going Behind the Wall

  1. The paywall versus free model is a conundrum of epic proportions. And it is one that I doubt will ever truly be solved. My biggest issue with paywalls is the lack of ability to share unique and interesting content with others through various social media outlets. I truly know and understand the need to monetize the content in an effort to perpetuate an existence of staff. Then there is the issue of mirror sites, more so with the launch of The Daily app than a small town newspaper, stealing content and sharing it for free anyway.

    “The way the economy is, I have a feeling that is coming sooner than later.”

    And with less money in the pockets of the users because of the economy, what will entice them to spend their limited resources on something that they have free access to dozens of other potential outlets? This might be a bit different in small town journalism because of the level of connection and involvement of the paper with the community and vice versa, but there might also be more of an impact on the newspaper’s bottom line because of the percentages of community connections. Like I said, it’s a death trap in either direction that likely will not be sorted out as there will be carnage for entities that choose either direction – free or pay.

    Sadly, I don’t see anyone benefiting in any direction.

    1. I appreciate your insight here Josh. And you bring up a great point about being (or not being) able to drive traffic to the site by sharing content on social media outlets. It’s gonna be an interesting year for us and what I will refer to as an experiment for the time being. Making a paywall successful will be a precarious balance between cost and benefit. We shall see.

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