Yet Another Paywall Experiment Fails

from the doomed-to-repeat-mistakes dept

As we've seen time and time again, generally, when newspapers put up a paywall around their content, things do not turn out well. Yet, newspapers continue to put them up. While we applaud the spirit of experimentation, if they simply keep repeating the same experiment over and over again, with the same results, they're apparently not learning anything. So, it's not really surprising to see that yet another paywall experiment has ended badly. This time The Valley Morning Star, a small paper in Harlingen, Texas, decided in mid-2009 to implement a paywall. The paper, which has a circulation of about 23,000, was chosen as a test case for Freedom Communications' stable of newspapers.

The paywall, which launched the week of July 15th, cost $3.95 a month, 75 cents per day, or was included if you had a subscription to the print version of the newspaper. The rationale was that since online readers were not paying a subscription fee, somehow the value to the print subscribers decreased:
"It will allow greater value to our many loyal print-edition subscribers by not giving away the news to non-subscribers," Patton said. "The days of giving content away, which costs money to create and for which we charge our print subscribers, I think, are just over."
As we've discussed here before, this is a flawed argument. The subscription price of a printed newspaper barely covers the costs of printing and distribution, not the production of the content, which is generally funded with ad revenue.

In any case, after 8 months, the The Valley Morning Star took the paywall down, proudly proclaiming they "will be moving back to a completely FREE Web site." By now, so many of these paywall experiments have failed that you have to wonder when the industry will finally heed the lessons they teach.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Wesha (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 3:53pm

    So how many paid readers they got? The same 35?

     

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  2.  
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    Nick Dynice (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 4:54pm

    Their logic was: luddite = loyal.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 5:22pm

    Paywalls for newspapers will work once every newspaper enacts a paywall.

    IT'S SIMPLE ECONOMICS!!!

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 5:33pm

    I'm calling it right now. Their will be an expansion of copyright, and the DMCA to include "hot news".

    The people that have traditionally controlled the flow of information are determined to do so in this, new age of peer broadcasting.

    Their are lobbyists on capitol hill right now hammering out agreements, to push some yet unknown protection on their news. The argument goes: "It's no different than hearing a song, having a cover band play it and then selling it right along side of the artist that struggled to create it.". This is a fight that's been brewing for some time, but you can bet, it's going to come out of nowhere and get pushed through really quickly. As usual it will be embedded in some sham legislation called "Protect Children from Sexual Predators" or something else the crooked senators wouldn't be caught dead voting against... They know it's coming, these guys, the ones that are putting up pay walls they're just not big enough to know whats in the pipeline.

    Q2 - 2011

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 5:44pm

    paywalls dont work when you are the only one doing it. row after row of free lemonade stands it is hard to charge a dollar for a glass. but the free lemonade stands dont last forever especially with the decline of income from print. it is a question of timing not of a failed concept.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 5:53pm

    Re:

    NO ITS NOT!!!

    The film and music industries have paywalls around their content, and that leads to rampant piracy. However, since their content is relatively "long-life" they still manage to survive and even do quite well. Not so for news outlets, where their content is stale within a week. If they force their customers to turn to pirate news outlets, they may be doomed.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 5:55pm

    Idiots

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Chargone (profile), Apr 9th, 2010 @ 6:03pm

    Re:

    so... it'll work if you form a cartel?

    ...

    ...

    yeeeah.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Veritas, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 7:30pm

    I take the 4th, for fools

    Is this the same group that lead the cheer for the Iraq war?
    Is this the same group that didn’t see ANY of the financial melt down?
    What kind of reporting are we really talking about?

    Calling these people “professional” reporters is offensive to America. They can’t get the real stories that are affecting our country, so they latch on to the “current events” and claim they have “something to offer”.

    Shame on US for listen to these charlatans.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 8:14pm

    Re: Re:

    no it will work when it is the norm, and when there isnt so much free stuff out there supported by other business models. right now websites are often just dumps of content paid elsewhere. when they become the only focus when print disappears then people will look at protecting their content more. then the subscription model is more appropriate.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 9:47pm

    This proves that they are all INSANE!!!!

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2010 @ 11:12pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Don't let reality hit you on the way out of your fantasy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2010 @ 12:17am

    Re: Re: Re:

    ". . . look at protecting their content more."

    While a massive amount of other people will go in the oppostie direction.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Apr 10th, 2010 @ 4:02am

    Re:

    The biggest news site in The Netherlands is arguably www.nu.nl which is a free (as in beer) news site. They don't have a print circulation but they have their own redactional staff now, all because of ad revenue.

    Now what would happen if one of the large Dutch print newspapers were to put a paywall around their website. More people would flock to the free ones, causing them to have bigger ad-revenues because of more ad-views, so more money to do fun stuff with and expand their empire. Meanwhile the big print newspaper is doomed to failure, as they don't have the page views and the ad views, and arguably even less pageviews than before the paywall.

    It's a simple matter of knowing human behaviour.

    You can't get ALL online news outlets to go behind a paywall. There will always be at least 1 rogue outlet that would refuse to put up a paywall.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Bradley Stewart, Apr 10th, 2010 @ 4:40am

    Everyone Is Just

    getting tired of fees for everything. Before the ongoing scandalous treatment of banks and other financial institutions of their customers become so well known there was a comedy bit about a fellow calling his bank for some information. The customer service rep. on the line asked is that a question or a statement? The fellow asked why? The rep. said because if its a statement there is no charge, but if its a question that will be two dollars. Sure the people who work for these papers need to be paid just like anyone else who works. Its just that every time I seem to turn around someone wants to charge me for something. Just one last example. If I choose to pay my electric bill over the phone to a computer mind you just for the privilege of paying my bill I am charged an extra $3.50. Oh Brother!

     

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  16.  
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    abc gum, Apr 10th, 2010 @ 7:41am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yeah, the only business model allowed is the one you presently own. All other (competition) business models should be outlawed in the name of protecting (your) copyright.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2010 @ 7:58am

    Re:

    You are confusing "newspapers" for news sources. It could work once every news source puts up a pay wall.

    If the papers followed your advice they would all put up a pay wall, and the internet readers will simply move on to another source.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2010 @ 8:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    no business model holds up to everyone stealing things. the tolerance of such theft under the guise of information wants to be free and other little lies will evaporate over time. when you get old enough to actually make something of value you will change your minds.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2010 @ 9:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    So does that mean when I read a story about Joe Schmoe jumping off a bridge to kill himself on website B for free I'm stealing that information from website A and keeping it to myself so no else can have it? I mean, if website A who "owns" that story wants it back I guess I can give it back to them. get a clue before you post moron.

     

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  20.  
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    Improbus (profile), Apr 10th, 2010 @ 10:02am

    Distributed News Syndicate

    Has anyone started a web site that takes reports from the Internet and fact checks them? I am thinking that some one needs to start a site like Wikileaks or Wikipedia but for news ... WikiNews. You could get paid for your article/video/photos/commentary by the number of page views. This hypothetical news bureau could charge other news organizations a fee for accessing their content. This news would be distributed and not monolithic like the MSM (main stream media) who everyone knows work for their corporate masters. The MSM can not be trusted to give the news ... just propaganda.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2010 @ 11:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Well, I'm convinced! You're arrogant.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 10th, 2010 @ 7:45pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "it will work when it is the norm, and when there isnt so much free stuff out there supported by other business models."

    I spotted a really large gaping hole in your argument. Its Called Reality, perhaps you have heard of it. Currently the number of new blogs is growing at the same percentage year after year (previous I mistakenly said exponentially). A sizable chunk of them are news blogs. People are consuming news differently now than they were 10 years ago, they are choosing the news based on topics they have an interest in and from different sources. This trend is accelerating as more and more people go online and communicate with one another.

    "when they become the only focus when print disappears then people will look at protecting their content more. then the subscription model is more appropriate."

    Here is a word you might like to look up "Rationalization"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2010 @ 8:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    no you arent stealing anything. what a dense argument. if website b copied it from website a without persmission, then they stole it and you are just profiting from the theft. wegbsite a doesnt own the facts they own their writing of the facts. website b can write their own story. your argument is a fail, making you the moron.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2010 @ 10:35pm

    Re: Distributed News Syndicate

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 10th, 2010 @ 10:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    making moron is stealing in dense website, without permission, then you stole writing own the facts of theft through profit but website x has copied story. argument b from fail is just their writing from it. then they and of the website y over website z.

    Well, I'm convinced!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    tom davis, Apr 11th, 2010 @ 12:09pm

    This has nothing to do with theft or IP. Its just business.
    The newspapers make most of there money from ads now. Before they could get money from classifieds, but that is finished. They need to increase subscribers in order to increase advertising income. Have people sign up to view content online sure but for free. This way they can charge more for advertising. There are few papers that can get away with charging people to view online and not lose viewers. A paper would have to have something that no other paper can provide. The economist or the wall street journal come to mind.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    DoxAvg, Apr 11th, 2010 @ 6:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    As an aside, growing the same percentage year after year is the definition of exponential growth.

    In a great Hindu legend, the king owes a single grain of rice on the first square of the chess board, and 100% (see: constant percentage increase) more on the next, and the next, and the next. It ends up being a lot of rice.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Sal, Apr 11th, 2010 @ 10:06pm

    my town

    so odd to see my town mentioned in this blog that i have been reading for years and years. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 12th, 2010 @ 12:44am

    Digital version no good for

    mopping up cat piss.

    You can have the worlds most bestest digital news site but only the physical newspaper is absorbent enough to soak up common household spills.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
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    DerekCurrie (profile), Apr 12th, 2010 @ 6:19am

    Paywall FAIL, Subscription Over-pricing

    The 'Paywall' experiment ended in failure back in the 1990s during the advent of the Worldwide Web. These retrograde attempts at paywalls are amusing testaments to ignorance. The fact is that there will always be free alternatives that will attract larger audiences simply because they are free.

    Another FAIL is the attempt to over-price subscriptions to websites. Blatant user gouging has been going on such that paying for extended website access and features is prohibitive. With time there will be price corrections such that users will happily pay a reasonable fee if only to help out their favorite sites. For example, it's great that the New York Times now provides paid electronic versions of their paper. However, the cost is remarkably high considering the lack of required paper printing and shipping fees. Once they adjust their subscription fee to a reasonable price, their subscription rate will increase.

    Conclusion: Herr Rupert Murdoch, Führer of News Corp., is a 20th century Luddite. Like all other over-priced paywalls, his will FAIL.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    BP, Apr 12th, 2010 @ 7:54am

    RE: Yet Another Paywall Experiment Fails

    I don't see this as a problem with wanting to charge. I see it as a problem in not adding value when you sell something that is free elsewhere. What the news agencies haven't come up with yet is a way to make it worthwhile to pay for news. You see it in other Internet business models. For example, Slacker radio gives additional benefits for pay customers plus a free option for cheap people like me. I don't know how they're doing, but I know people willing to pay for those additional benefits.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Stephen, Jun 15th, 2012 @ 10:40am

    It's 2012', this paywall is back up, the NYT paywall a huge success

    And ya'lls look like a bunch of douchebags

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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