Articles about "Paywalls"

Salt Lake Tribune won’t get a paywall because of competition

Salt Lake Tribune

After Digital First Media CEO John Paton announced Monday that the company would roll out paywalls to “all 75 dailies run by DFM,” the Salt Lake Tribune tweeted to Poynter that its site would remain free:


A Digital First Media spokesperson confirmed to Poynter (as did Paton, on Twitter) that the Tribune would stay free. Tribune Editor Terry Orme hasn’t replied to my request for more information, but Managing Editor Lisa Carricaburu explained the exemption in a story on Monday:

We are in a very competitive news market flush with free online access to news. For us to charge for access to and our mobile applications at this time would be to risk losing a significant chunk of audience that easily could find local news somewhere else. We want Utahns coming to

The Deseret News also serves Salt Lake City. It does not have a paywall. Read more

San Jose Mercury News homepage. ( Huh)

Digital First will add paywalls at most of its daily newspapers

Digital First | Newsonomics

Digital First Media plans to expand its paywall offerings to most of its 75 daily newspapers, CEO John Paton says in a blog post. The paywalls will be an all-access model. Paton, a noted skeptic about paywalls in the past, writes that while “digital advertising has grown more than 89 percent,” the company needs “more gas in the tank if we are going to complete this journey of print-to-digital transformation.”

Let’s be clear, paid digital subscriptions are not a long-term strategy. They don’t transform anything; they tweak. At best, they are a short-term tactic.

I’m not sure that’s a meaningful distinction,” Ken Doctor writes about Paton’s strategy/tactic taxonomy. Read more

1 Comment

For Modern Farmer, farm stands hold more promise than newsstands

When Modern Farmer launched its GoatCam in September, Editor-in-Chief Ann Marie Gardner was surprised to hear from people working at the Pentagon.

“They had a suggestion for changing the angle of the camera so they could see the goats better,” Gardner said in a phone interview.

Gardner (Photo by David Harriman)

Modern Farmer is proving adept at finding audiences in places one wouldn’t expect. Since launching this past April, its article on why cow-tipping is nearly impossible has become a viral hit, BuzzFeed’s Katie Notopoulos has written about how to behave at a farmers market and President Clinton has jawed about farming in its pages. (He remembers he once “badly lost a head-butting contest to a ram.”)

The Hudson, N.Y.-based publication offers a daily report online as well as a quarterly print magazine. Its target audience isn’t just urban weenies obsessing about kale, but people who are interested in the stories behind their food. Climate science, food policy and (oh yeah) actual agriculture are all coverage areas. Judging by the emails she’s received, Gardner said, farmers appreciate that the publication is “not insulting.”

“We’re credible with farmers because of the stories we’re telling,” she said. “And because we’re focused on solutions, which is something they appreciate.”

Rwanda’s agriculture minister Agnes Matilda Kalibata talked about the country’s agricultural renaissance in the Fall 2013 issue, while Jesse Hirsch reported on the difficulty of controlling wild pigs in the magazine’s premiere.

Gardner said Modern Farmer has 10 employees, five of whom have full-time editorial jobs. Its staff writers are expected to file three stories per day, which don’t necessarily land in the print edition: “It just feels like different things live differently in print,” Gardner said. “It feels internally very clear what the difference is.” A long investigative piece will probably hit the print edition first, for instance.

Gardner is also the company’s CEO, a new role for someone who’s been a journalist for most of her career, working for Monocle and The New York Times among other publications. As she planned Modern Farmer, she said, she decided that the website would be free, calling a paywall a “total turnoff … We think we can generate revenue from different sources.” Modern Farmer has an e-commerce site and Gardner said that “eventually we see ourselves doing events.”

(The Canadian tycoon Frank Giustra is Modern Farmer’s primary investor. He’s a partner of the Clintons in an anti-poverty initiative and helped arrange Modern Farmer’s interview with the former president.)

Modern Farmer does sell subscriptions to its print edition, which feels and looks terrific and shows ads for Bonterra organic wine alongside ones for Kioti tractors and Muck boots.

Single-copy sales, though, are more challenging: The number of newsstands continues to fall, and competition for space on the remaining shelves is fierce. Gardner is still thinking through that aspect of the business, musing that “there has to be a better way” to get magazines to readers. Modern Farmer could try to tap farmers markets as distribution points, or partner with community-supported agriculture outfits, she suggested.

“Think about who’s reading us — they’re eating organic vegetables and having them delivered to their house,” she said.

Gardner said while Modern Farmer was in the planning stages, people she spoke to at tractor shows saw her publication as being for the “lifestyle farmer, the hobby farmer — which definitely is part of the people we talk to.” But now that Modern Farmer is a reality, she added, “some bigger farmers are fascinated by the magazine, too.” She said her favorite reaction from readers is when they say, “I never knew farming was relevant to me.”

Correction: This post originally misspelled a writer’s first name: He is Jesse Hirsch, not Jessie.

// Read more


Richmond Times-Dispatch readers get digital discount if they consent to print

Print and digital subscriptions to newspapers generally work like this: If you subscribe to the print product, you get free digital access. But if all you want is digital, you can pay a little less.

Not so in Richmond.

The Times-Dispatch launched its All Access paywall Tuesday that charges more for those readers who want digital access to the website but don’t want newspapers delivered to their doorsteps. After introductory rates expire, each print subscription option — seven-day, six-day, either of two four-day options, or Sunday-only — will cost a flat $19 per month with digital access included. Meanwhile, digital access without print costs $21 per month.

So is the model forward-thinking and digital-first or is it mostly an attempt to boost print circulation while there’s still some money to be made there? President and publisher Tom Silvestri couldn’t be reached for comment, but here’s how the paper justifies the pricing in its FAQ:

Why, after the introductory period is over, does the digital-only option cost the most?

Traditionally, our business has subsidized the cost of producing content with advertising – particularly the glossy inserts that many readers see in the newspaper on Sundays. When an All Access subscriber chooses the digital-only option, our business misses out on the chance to subsidize the cost of producing content. As a result, digital-only subscribers are paying a higher rate for the content.

That’s confirmation that print advertising remains far more lucrative than online advertising even as readers abandon print for screens. But the extent to which this reality is reflected in subscription prices stands out.

Other papers also leverage reader demand for digital products to boost circulation for ad-heavy Sunday newspapers. For instance:

  • The Los Angeles Times offers Sunday print plus digital access for $1.99 per week, but if you’d rather not receive the Sunday paper you’ll pay a dollar more.
  • I read the New York Times with a similar deal, by getting digital access paired with just the Sunday print product, which has posted big circulation gains. For $8.20 per week, I get the Sunday paper delivered to me in print and digital access, which includes smartphone and tablet apps. All Digital Access without print costs $8.75 per week.
  • Readers of the Indianapolis Star can receive Sunday and Thursday in print plus digital for the same price ($12 per month) as digital alone, but to upgrade to seven-day print costs $14 more, bringing the monthly total to $26.

But the new Richmond model goes further than any of these examples in offering home delivery — including all seven days of the week — as a bonus, so it’ll be fascinating to see its impact on print circulation. If they can put up with newsprint piling up in their homes, digital subscribers literally have nothing to lose by signing up for print delivery — and, in fact, they have $2 per month to gain.

Read more


Buffett-owned Richmond Times-Dispatch introduces paywall

Richmond Times-Dispatch

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.” Read more


The International New York Times debuts

The first edition of The International New York Times appeared Tuesday. It replaces the International Herald Tribune. In a letter to readers on the front page, Times Publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. says his father “had the vision to make The Times a national newspaper in 1980.”

With today’s action, we are creating a single, unified global media brand, which will allow us to expand our digital hubs, grow our editorial team, add more international voices in news and opinion, and increase the coverage provided by some of our best writers from around the globe.

Read more


Dallas Morning News to drop paywall Oct. 1

The Dallas Morning News

On Tuesday, The Dallas Morning News’ online content “will be accessible to everyone, free of charge,” a company press release says. It will also offer a premium service with “enhanced design and navigation, limited advertising, and access to unique subscriber benefits” to print subscribers; nonsubscribers will pay $2.99 a week, the release says.

Eric Celeste reported in August that the paper would lose its paywall.

The new site will be “radically different,” Sheryl Jean writes.

Readers of the paid site will see an image-oriented, collage display with far fewer ads (Web pages maintained by third parties also may contain ads). Eventually, more personalization and a loyalty program will be added to the site.

The free site will look just like The News’ current website with advertisements.

“The pay wall solution hasn’t worked,” Jason Dyer, the News’ chief marketing officer, told Jean. “The pay wall didn’t create a massive groundswell of [digital] subscribers.” Read more

Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 9.56.15 AM

USA Today president: ‘No plan exists’ for paywall

The New York Post | Folio

USA Today President and Publisher Larry Kramer said at a panel in New York that the paper is “exploring” a paywall, Keith J. Kelly reports. Reached by email, Kramer told Poynter, “No plan exists. We’re studying it.”

Kramer also said the paper will remove its trademark white boxes from some locations, Kelly reports. It expects sales from such boxes to decline by about one-third after a planned price hike from $1 to $2 next Monday: “Most people are not going to have eight quarters in their pocket,” Kramer told the panel.

When USA Today launched, Mike Feinsilber wrote that it was “pinning its multi-million dollar hopes on a streetcorner vending machine that looks like a television set on a pedestal.”

A USA Today box in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
Read more

Tampa Bay Times will erect a paywall

Tampa Bay Times
Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times will install a metered paywall on, charging readers who consume more than 15 pages per month, Times Chairman Paul Tash tells readers.

The Times’ “best customers get the best price, with discounts for subscribers to our print edition,” Tash writes. Some sections will not count against the 15-page limit:

Some parts of will continue to offer unlimited access. The meter does not count visits to the home page or to, our service that measures the truth of what politicians are saying. Readers also can tap into Things To Do, or the sections that advertise cars, homes and jobs, as much as they like.

Read more
online money

How two small family-owned newspapers in Vermont had success with a paywall

(This case study, the first of an occasional series, was underwritten by a grant from the Stibo Foundation. Poynter affiliate Bill Mitchell did the reporting for the article in 2012, and it has been updated and edited by Media Business Analyst Rick Edmonds, who is general editor of the project.)

Most discussion about online paywalls has focused on the big guys, and more recently, on big chains. The New York Times boasts of dramatic results from the wall it erected in March 2011 and its subsequent success selling all-digital subscriptions and print + digital bundles. Gannett is the largest of the many chains that have followed suit and seen growth in circulation revenues, up in 2012 industry-wide for the first time in years.

More and more smaller and mid-sized news organizations are investigating ways to charge for content online, but it is a more daunting task for small papers, especially independents.

What follows is a close look at the experience so far of one such organization — the family owned The Rutland Times Herald and related Vermont companies. The Herald is the oldest continuously published family-owned newspaper produced under the same name in the same city. (I’m no relation to the Mitchell family that has owned the Herald since 1947.)

The Rutland Times Herald and its sister paper Barre-Montpelier Times Argus have added six figures in annual online subscription revenue while losing less than 9 percent of digital advertising.

The basic metrics

Here are some key figures from the Herald and the Times Argus, which are jointly owned:

  • 18,050: Combined Sunday print circulation
  • 1,815: Combined Sunday digital editions
  • 16,145: Combined daily print circulation
  • 1,833: Combined daily digital editions
  • 9,802: Users registered for access to or (includes print subscribers who register for free, day pass users, digital upgrades and digital-only access)
  • 1,640: Average number of logins per day
  • 721: Users subscribed to e-Edition
  • 502: Average number of daily visitors to e-Edition & mobile edition
  • 31/35: Average page views per visitor to e-Edition / mobile edition
  • 16/25: Average number of minutes on site per visit to e-Edition / mobile edition

How the paywall conversation began

A paywall done right can result in relatively little (if any) loss in advertising revenue and significant increase in digital circulation revenue. Maximizing digital revenue requires striking the right balance between reach (for advertising) and revenue (charged for access to content). A metered approach enables publishers to tweak the dials for each to address local circumstances.

In the fall of 2010, the Rutland Herald and Times Argus were producing online ad revenue in the low six figures. The sites were generating 3.8 to 4.4 million page views a month, and 18 million impressions from banner ads and other, smaller slots set aside for advertising messages on each page delivered.

The Herald company was getting paid for only about 10 million of those 18 million slots, though, with the remainder filled by house ads or other non revenue-producing messages. The Herald was not alone among newspapers publishing a whole lot of house ads, as documented in this study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Furthermore, the excess inventory meant the company could afford to lose nearly half its Web traffic with no impact on revenue. The restricted impressions also created scarcity, which pushed out the much lower revenue Google Ads impressions for retail ads. That’s how it did happen.

The scarcity did, however, result in some difficulty fulfilling very specifically targeted ad buys (many agencies/buyers work in 100k impression chunks, which can be hard to deliver when it’s targeted by a zip code). One answer the Herald came up with was to up ad positions by 20 percent in a redesign, which added a proportional number of impressions.

The challenge: That excess inventory framed the revenue challenge for president and publisher R. John Mitchell: The papers needed some new revenue streams in addition to online advertising.

Charged with addressing this challenge was Mitchell’s son, online manager/state editor Rob Mitchell, who is the source of the information provided in this case study.


The Rutland Herald and the Times Argus are the leading sources of local news and information in their communities. The state of Vermont is small enough that there is also competition on a statewide basis for news and advertising.

There are three network television affiliates covering Vermont — the CBS affiliate is locally-owned and by far the most competitive statewide, and there are NBC and ABC affiliates that are owned by chains. They compete from the Plattsburgh, NY DMA. There are roughly 38 weekly or bi-weekly newspapers statewide, with about 8-10 in direct competition for news and advertising with the Herald/Times Argus dailies on any given day.

There are eight daily newspapers in Vermont, with varying degrees of overlap in coverage areas and advertising competition. In the last two years all but one of them have gone to a paywall or have previously limited the amount of news they share on their website. In addition to Vermont Public Radio (VPR), there are more than two dozen commercial radio stations, but most of them do not have a robust online presence. VPR does, however.

There is also a nonprofit online news site,, which reports on statewide policy and political issues. Another competitor for local eyeballs is a startup called Front Porch Forum, which is a town-by-town community bulletin board that sends out a daily email summary of community notices and sells text-based advertising in these emails.

As a result, Mitchell tells Poynter his papers are in constant competition online for such statewide news as coverage of the legislature and the governor. A reader can partially replace the papers’ statewide coverage with free online sources but not always with the same depth or breadth. The papers face some competition for coverage of local boards and/or local sports, and that is evolving because of online-only competition. The local competition is more serious at the pancake breakfast fundraiser level or the youth sports team level, Mitchell says.

He says social media is helping the papers strengthen their role as a definitive source for accurate news. And he points to several events that he says “demonstrated our value in providing well-sourced reporting and calm, accurate narrative in the face of disaster, tragedy and controversy, including a drug-related death, the devastation of a tropical storm, a community revitalization effort and the firing of a popular principal.”

He adds: “We have also pursued two public records cases involving police misdeeds to the Supreme Court of Vermont in the last three years, and may have to take one of them back this year. All this is what we’ve always considered our role, but it’s growing ever more important because of the speed with which rumors can gain traction.”

The Herald experimented with using a simple WordPress blog called Vermont Today designed for quick hit updates and breaking news. It has evolved into more of a driver of social media traffic, while the papers break hard news on their main websites.

Mitchell explains: “There are a few others in different categories like art and sports; we’re building these out slowly, but they are meant to fill the need that people expressed when we put up the paywall — the need for us to continue as a community voice, as a place where anyone can have a forum to speak, that is free. So it’s in a sense a parallel but complementary system.”


Here’s Mitchell’s take on the money issues:

Our company as a whole has seen a negative trend in revenue since 2007. We have cut expenses by 38% in that time span, but have seen revenue fall by roughly equal amounts with most of that coming in the hard recession years of 2007-2009, and holding stable since late 2010. In late 2008, classified revenue began a free-fall and has never come back. It now accounts for around 10% of monthly revenue on average.

Circulation revenue is more or less steady, although it’s become a higher percentage of our overall revenues. We increased our single copy price in Jan. 2009, but aside from that have not increased delivery rates in eight years. Circ revenue is about 40% of total revenue, while online-only circ revenue is just under 3% of total revenue, but growing.

The first two and a half years of the paywall produced digital-first circulation revenue in the mid six figures. Most of the way through the third year, we are on pace for annual digital circ revenue to grow 11 percent.  Between the first and second year it grew 19 percent..

We have, on average, 4,211 distinct logins a month between the two papers over the last year. Each subscriber – not day pass or library users — can add up to three more email logins to their account – as if they were a family of 4 sharing the subscription. The logins come from a mix of options our readers have:

1. Digital-only subscription: Includes e-Edition, website access, business journals access. In February 2013 we introduced a $1 upsell for the same access to the sister paper to comply with new audit rules.  Most popular options are the 52-week purchase at $2.99 a week and then the 8-week purchase at $3.49 a week. Between the 2 papers we have 914 of these.

2. Digital upgrade: For print subscribers, we offer an e-Edition upgrade at $2 extra a month. We have 132 of those.

3. Day Pass: We offer a day pass for $.99, packs of 5, 10 or 20 day passes at a discount.

4. Library program: We work with 31 school and public libraries on a use program that operates similarly to a day pass. Logins for that library are restricted to a specific IP address and paid for either by donations or a library subscription, which is very affordable. We are working on expanding this to locations beyond our traditional coverage area.

5. Free online access: We offer all print subscribers access to our web sites through a registration process. This is free, does NOT include the e-Edition, but it connects us with more online users, enables us to pull further demographic data, and so forth.

Retail advertising revenue has declined, mostly due to the closure of large retailers in our market zone, and a shrinking share of the overall advertising pie because of online competition. Our particular challenge in this area has been to build options for smaller local advertisers that are affordable but also effective — in short, compete with Google AdWords and their like — and build content that can support ads that the big guys want, too, like video for pre-roll ads.

Print retail advertising plus online banner advertising has remained steady over the last two years, and is now at about 45% of overall revenue. Online / digital advertising currently makes up about 5% of retail ad revenue – more than three years ago, but still a small share.

So as an overall trend, our hardest hit has been from loss of classifieds, with a distant second print circulation revenue, and then retail. We also sustained a $7 million loss, only partly covered by insurance, due to a flood in May 2011, which set us back but also accounts for much of our expense reduction — we had to outsource our printing and lay off 40 employees who had been involved in the press and distribution operations.

(Thankfully several of them were able to move to our contract printer to work). However, we still have a larger-than-standard newsroom for newspapers our size. By comparison, the local Gannett daily has a circulation one-third larger than ours, but a newsroom one-third smaller.

The strategy

Mitchell and his team decided to introduce a paywall and selected Clickshare, a 15 year-old newspaper technology company based in Amherst, Mass. as the vendor to build it.

In October 2010, the papers launched a so-called “hard wall,” requiring a subscription to access most content with the exception of breaking news, obituaries and news or opinion that was available free elsewhere. They eased users into the new arrangement in stages that began with a two-week free trial that required registration but no payment.

The trial did not require confirmation of email addresses or any payment information, which led to a large percentage of fake emails being used as login names, until the trial was shut down after 80 days. After the trial ended, each registration required a credit card to be entered.

The paywall also coincided with the release of an e-Paper, or e-Edition, a Flash-based and interactive digital replica of the print newspapers and the Business Journals (the company owns four monthly business Journals that publish in Vermont and part of New Hampshire).

The e-Edition was designed to give subscribers something extra in return for the paywall, to meet the demand for this version of the paper, and to allow for transitioning remote rural subscribers from print delivery to online-only. The e-Edition was also a step toward a tablet/mobile version of the papers, but at the point of setup, Mitchell reports, adding: “These things were still relatively in flux and we had not settled on the tablet/mobile strategy.” The papers did introduce an HTML e-Edition for tablets and mobile devices in March of 2012.

The costs: Mitchell said Clickshare charged a set up fee of $1,500 plus $997 to synch the paywall system to the papers’ database of print subscribers. Each additional site (the Times Argus site, for example) cost an additional $997. Read more