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.

Maybe “paywalls” are a tactic, but reader revenue is a strategy, and it’s one that makes as much philosophical sense as financial. Who better to pay most of the salaries of journalists than the people they write for? Isn’t that better than being largely beholden to more fickle commercial interests?

Forty-one percent of U.S. dailies will have paywalls after DFM puts its plans into place, Doctor writes. "Yes, paywalls are just part of a new evolving news model, but they are an essential part. ... It will be hard to explain to people in 2020 how the early 'online newspapers' were free for 15 years."

Correction: Paton said the all-access models will be rolled out to "all 75 dailies run by DFM," but the Salt Lake Tribune says on Twitter, and a DFM spokesperson confirms, that it won't have a paywall. I'm trying to get more details on this point.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.

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