A Paywall... For Obituaries?

from the seriously? dept

We've seen all sorts of paywall ideas for newspapers, some more ridiculous than others, but this one seems really bizarre. We've been waiting for some time to see the details of Stephen Brill's paywalls-for-newspapers company, Journalism Online, and apparently the first "in the wild" test for the system will be with LancasterOnline, the website of a small newspaper in south-central Pennsylvania... and the paywall will only cover the obituaries section. Yes, you read that right. You can read seven obits for free, but if you have eight friends who died this month, you'll have to pay an additional $1.99 per month to keep reading their obits.

Separately, it appears that Journalism Online's "paywall" system is so weak that even the company itself is highlighting ways to get around the paywall (turn off javascript, use noscript, use multiple browsers or delete your cookies), saying basically they don't think many people will actually bother to do any of those things. Of course, most people also won't bother to pay, so perhaps we can call it even.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 14th, 2010 @ 4:12pm

    "Of course, most people also won't bother to pay, so perhaps we can call it even"

    Just like TAMs mom.

     

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  2.  
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    IronM@sk, Jul 14th, 2010 @ 4:16pm

    LMAO!

    I shall endeavour to inform my friends they can't all die at once, lest I miss some of their funerals. Seriously some people just fail at the internet.

     

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  3.  
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    billynomates, Jul 14th, 2010 @ 4:18pm

    Obits

    I've only got 7 friends in the whole world (though they all claim to be terminal whenever I see them) so it doesn't bother me - but I would have liked to have read the obituary of paywalls as well --- shucks, seems I must miss out there

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 14th, 2010 @ 4:30pm

    Perhaps one day all these paywalls will die.

     

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  5.  
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    Qyiet (profile), Jul 14th, 2010 @ 4:31pm

    Up against the worlds best... they make it less useful

    Twitter is the worlds best obituary service. It's free, and a lot quicker than a website behind a paywall.

    I don't see how they will add value even close to what twitter provides.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 14th, 2010 @ 4:44pm

    Re: Up against the worlds best... they make it less useful

    They can sue twitter of course. Twitter is interfering with their business model and needs to pay up.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 14th, 2010 @ 4:52pm

    Haha, awesome. That's my (terrible) paper.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 14th, 2010 @ 4:53pm

    From the article:

    He believes enough of them will pay to continue reading them that the site will generate at least $100,000 a year and maybe more.

    I think this one deserves a double-facepalm...

     

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  9.  
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    Ron Rezendes (profile), Jul 14th, 2010 @ 4:55pm

    When anyone I know dies it appears on Facebook before I even get home - can't access Facebook at work.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 14th, 2010 @ 5:05pm

    I died a little.

     

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  11.  
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    Bones, Jul 14th, 2010 @ 5:45pm

    Dammit jim im a doctor not a .....

    miracle worker...

    sad just real damn sad.
    HEY who died today....
    I ain't paying to see it...
    {shakes head walks off}

     

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  12.  
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    Eugene (profile), Jul 14th, 2010 @ 6:11pm

    Re:

    Man oh man, I just can't get enough of these obituaries! They're the best! Keep em coming, LancasterOnline!

     

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  13.  
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    Bill Rosenblatt, Jul 14th, 2010 @ 6:33pm

    sorry, this actually makes sense to me...

    Uh, if you're going to experiment with metered direct-pay models, then doing it in a low-impact section like obits actually makes sense. It makes more sense than, say, doing it with the sports section or (heaven forbid) the entire paper. And let's repeat the operative word here: it's an EXPERIMENT. If it doesn't work, they can turn it off (or raise the threshold, or whatever).

    Furthermore, one of the ideas behind the metered model is to try to identify the kinds of users who might actually be in a position to pay for content. I'd argue that obits is a good fit here, too: anyone looking at that many obits in a month might just be a researcher.

     

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  14.  
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    Or - maybe, Jul 14th, 2010 @ 6:55pm

    Scumbag vultures might pay to find their next victim.

     

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  15.  
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    Nate (profile), Jul 14th, 2010 @ 7:37pm

    LancasterOnline, I hate to say it, but you're dead to me.

     

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  16.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Jul 14th, 2010 @ 8:20pm

    Mike here is a great line for a future story ...

    An Obituary... For Paywalls

    Please use it when Rupert Murdochs paywalls fail ... :)

     

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  17.  
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    Andrew F (profile), Jul 14th, 2010 @ 9:38pm

    Competing with Free

    Look, a competitor that lets you post and view obituaries for free! http://techcrunch.com/2010/07/09/a-loved-one-has-passed-away-whats-your-digital-strategy/

    This is actually an interesting business issue: a recurring problem with online obituaries is how to make money tastefully. I'm hoping the startup mentioned in the link manages to develop a business model that doesn't sound like squeezing dollars out of the bereaved (even if funeral homes swear by it)/

     

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  18.  
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    Bob Vila, Jul 14th, 2010 @ 10:08pm

    God damn they're getting desperate.

     

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  19.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jul 14th, 2010 @ 10:34pm

    Re: sorry, this actually makes sense to me...

    Uh, if you're going to experiment with metered direct-pay models, then doing it in a low-impact section like obits actually makes sense. It makes more sense than, say, doing it with the sports section or (heaven forbid) the entire paper. And let's repeat the operative word here: it's an EXPERIMENT. If it doesn't work, they can turn it off (or raise the threshold, or whatever).

    So you pick a section no one is going to pay for? How is that a smart experiment?

    Furthermore, one of the ideas behind the metered model is to try to identify the kinds of users who might actually be in a position to pay for content. I'd argue that obits is a good fit here, too: anyone looking at that many obits in a month might just be a researcher.

    And how many "researchers" do you think there are who would pay? Quick do the math on how many there are, how many will pay, and the cost of setting up a paywall.

     

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  20.  
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    Michael, Jul 15th, 2010 @ 4:51am

    Re: sorry, this actually makes sense to me...

    Did you forget the sarc-mark?

    Obituaries are public announcements - intended to inform as many people as possible about a death. Walling them behind a paywall is like sending Christmas cards postage-due. All this does is drive away readers.

    The only people that would pay to see obits would be the ones that know there is someone in them that they care about - way to fleece the people that have recently lost a loved one. Oh, and if you already know that someone is in the obits and you really want to read about it, you are likely to want to buy the paper copy for posterity anyway.

    I'm still amazed the executives at newspapers have their jobs. They seem to flop around aimlessly hoping to accidentally come across money.

     

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  21.  
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    JMartin, Jul 15th, 2010 @ 6:23am

    Re: sorry, this actually makes sense to me...

    But Grandma and Grandpa don't even know how to use a computer except to play solitaire.

    How the heck do you expect them to figure out how to sign up and get access to their dying friend's obituaries behind a paywall?

     

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


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