“Giving away content online no longer can be sustained,” Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch Publisher Tom Silvestri writes in a letter to readers. “Not if we want to be around for another 160-plus years serving the Richmond region and Virginia with the kind of news reporting that makes a difference and advertising deals that delight.”
The Times-Dispatch’s “All Access” plan, coming Tuesday, will operate in a manner now familiar to paywall observers: People who don’t subscribe to the paper will be able to see 20 stories per 30-day period without hitting a gate. Videos, obituaries, classified ads, section fronts and wire copy won’t count against the meter.
And subscription prices will rise next year, Silvestri says, when the paper “will install a comparatively small increase to cover projected higher costs, some of which result from this month’s rollout of new sections and added pages.”
Also, from time to time, we’ll make small increases when we deliver more, such as in the giant Thanksgiving Day newspaper. The reality is that the advertising-subscription mix is changing as some print ad categories have declined given the arrival of digital, where the dollars earned still trail what’s needed to pay for the news coverage you expect.
The Times-Dispatch planned such a move previously, but the sale of the paper’s previous owner, Media General, to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway delayed it. Buffett has spoken enthusiastically about paywalls.
“You shouldn’t be giving away a product you’re trying to sell,” he told CNBC in February 2012.