Dallas Morning News boss: We’ll be vilified for charging for web content

Romenesko Memos
“Brace yourself,” Dallas Morning News publisher Jim Moroney writes in his memo to staff announcing the paper’s paywall plans. “We will be vilified by the digital futurists, ridiculed by colleagues in our industry and fitted with a dunce cap by the trade media. In fact, some of the same will be heard in our own hallways. Much like our 40% increase in home delivery pricing in 2009, this strategy goes against the grain. But that’s okay. We’ve been there before.”

From: “Moroney, James III”
Date: January 4, 2011 7:45:32 AM CST
To:
Subject: Message from Jim Moroney re Subscriber Content Initiative

Today we are announcing our “Subscriber Content” initiative in a series of meetings with employees. Originally, I was going to go into a lengthy business case for what we are doing. For the very few of you who would really like to read that, it’s coming next week. For today, I thought I’d take a slightly different tack.

Our Subscriber Content initiative that we are announcing today includes the news that in February, we will begin to require non-subscribers to pay for most of the news, sports and information our newsroom originates and distributes digitally each day.

So brace yourself. We will be vilified by the digital futurists, ridiculed by colleagues in our industry and fitted with a dunce cap by the trade media. In fact, some of the same will be heard in our own hallways. Much like our 40% increase in home delivery pricing in 2009, this strategy goes against the grain. But that’s okay. We’ve been there before.

We are still living in adverse times in our industry. Newspaper industry advertising revenues declined for the fourth straight year in 2010. Last year felt better because the rate of decline decelerated; nevertheless, no one is certain that advertising revenues will grow in this new year.

Fortunately, we can learn more in times of adversity than prosperity. Based on this, we should have all learned a lot in the last decade in this industry. I hope we have. Yet of this one lesson I am certain: If in these adverse times, we cling to the status quo, if we just try to do better and better that which isn’t providing us growth, we are failing in leadership and we are failing each other. And ultimately our business will fail.

I want to assure you that our Subscriber Content strategy has been carefully planned and it will be diligently executed. I know that because we are fortunate to have dedicated and talented people working at our company.

Are we certain this strategy will succeed? No. In fact, maybe we will be wearing that dunce cap.

What will we do if the strategy fails? We will get up and try again. As a wise person once said, in times of adversity, the greatest failure of all is the failure to dare to take risks.

We mustn’t waiver in our resolve. Strategies need time to succeed. We will course correct smartly as marketplace experience and gathered data suggest.

Having said all this, I don’t want you to read into this that I am the least bit downhearted. I am excited by what we are announcing today. I am exhilarated by the smart risks we take. I am proud of the people who have labored incessantly over the past several months to put us in this position. I believe this strategy has every good chance to succeed. I am looking forward to its implementation.

Happy New Year!

Jim

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