Disappointing: The Onion Tests A Paywall

from the don't-turn-away-fans dept

Apparently, The Onion is now testing a paywall outside the US, though the publisher insists that it's really just a test and they're very open to learning from and/or changing it. They're also apparently modeling it on the NY Times somewhat leaky (somewhat non-existent) paywall, so that people can still feel comfortable passing around links and stuff. Still, the limits seem pretty low. You're asked to pay once you've hit 5 articles (though, again, that may change as tests go on). Still, I'd think that -- especially with a site like The Onion -- a carrot approach, rather than a stick approach makes a lot more sense. I know that I've bought books from The Onion on more than one occasion (and have found they're good as gifts as well). If The Onion focused on giving people positive reasons to buy things, rather than negative reasons to "avoid" getting cut off, I would imagine it would work much better.

Tellingly, The Onion admits that it won't let the paywall anywhere near its famed A.V. Club, noting those folks "are much more focused on talking to each other... they donít want to be charged for their belonging to that community -- whereas I think they would feel differently about being charged for content thatís being provided to them. Itís a very different thing." This is a key point we've tried to make with various news sites. When your focus is on building a community, it makes less and less sense to try to force a paywall on people, because that actually takes away the value of the community itself. Giving people additional reasons to buy? That's good. Trying to beat them into paying... not so good.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Scooters (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 4:40am

    *blink

    The Onion.

    Known for news parody, especially against the NY Times.

    Modeling a paywall.

    My tears roll coming from The Onion.

    Because I'm laughing both from comedy and fear.

     

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  2.  
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    The eejit (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 4:40am

    I have to disagree, and think this is a genius idea...for getting the idea sunk so fast it's not funny.

     

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  3.  
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    Donnicton, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 4:46am

    You know how you were saying Mike that business would get more people coming to them if they just made better content or provide a better service, that would make people want to come to them?

    Why do I mention that? Oh, no particular reason...

    On a different note, have you noticed that The Onion hasn't particularly had any regularly funny articles for the past few years now? Or at least, nothing that has made me want to go to The Onion in quite some time.

     

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    Jay (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 4:53am

    Re: *blink

    Cracked.com is going to break the story with "5 reasons the Emperor's New Paywall doesn't work"

    Calling it now.

     

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  5.  
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    Bas Grasmayer (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 4:54am

    The content is the most valuable asset, but that doesn't mean that _that_ is what you have to charge for.

    I'd say merchandise and other 'premium' goods and services would be much easier to monetize without any adverse side-effects.

    Let's hope they're only joking. ;-)

     

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  6.  
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    frosty840, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 4:58am

    Donation buttons

    I know you're not a fan of the GIAAP model, Mike, but my interaction with most websites flat-out can't be monetised any other way. I don't buy branded crap, no matter its quality, and I've committed to no longer puchasing wood-pulp/cotton-mash/mineral-oil/pigment combos because they're simply wasteful.

    I would, however, love to CTRL+F a "Donate" link for my favourite sites, every year or so, but it's never there, and Flattr appears to be stuck in a cycle of "Well, if I set up a subscription, Mike Masnick is going to get all of it, because I've never seen a Flattr button anywhere else on the entire internet, not that I've ever looked, because I've never signed up for it, ad infinitum"...

    So, yeah, bizarre disenfranchisement by way of having no way to contribute anything to a number of sites I like...

     

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  7.  
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    Armin, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 5:02am

    You can cross out the "Apparently". They are. I've seen it popping up. After which I left.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 5:02am

    Mike Masnick's business model theory:

    Charge for everything but what people want the most from you.


    Cornell MBA.

     

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  9.  
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    John Doe, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 5:08am

    Re:

    Charge for everything but what people want the most from you.

    Yes, but the irony here is that apparently nobody is willing to pay for it. So why drive away what little income you have? I don't know what the long term answer is going to be, but I don't pay for content and never will. Well, except for movies and those I only rent for a $1 or $2 through RedBox or Netflix. It seems most other people don't pay either.

     

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  10.  
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    Gabriel Tane (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 5:12am

    Re:

    I keep waiting for the punchline... like the Onion is doing this to set up one of the most epic mocking stories about the NYT ever told.

     

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  11.  
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    Gabriel Tane (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 5:15am

    Re:

    He swings... and connects, but Oh! it's a fowl ball down the right base line.

    Nice over-simplification-that-blurs-the-situation-into-almost-your-favor though. I think I'll try that the next time I'm debating the old testiment... "God's business model theory: kill everyone but the Jews."

     

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  12.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 5:22am

    I stopped reading the Onion years ago. I have no idea if it's worth paying for or not.

    However, the reason it's ridiculous for news websites to put up paywalls is because news is ubiquitous. It's everywhere. If you can't read about the riot at one news website, you find it another, or another, or another.

    If (and that's a mighty big "if") the Onion is worth reading, it might be worth paying for because its content is unique and can't be found elsewhere.

    I'm not saying this will work. Or that it's a good idea. What I'm saying is that merely because its an asinine idea for a news website to put up a paywall, does not mean it's an asinine idea for every website.

    Think about it, Netflix has a pay wall. I don't hear anyone bitching about that. And it works in that instance because Netflix has unique content.

     

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  13.  
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    Gabriel Tane (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 5:28am

    Re:

    Actually, that's an interesting point. Is it right for us to lump The Onion into the same stupidity as the NYT? They do offer different services. In fact, you might say that The Onion is charging for the entertainment, not the 'news'. Maybe the comedic value of the articles is the RtB (in their minds)

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 5:32am

    Re:

    Ok smart guy, it's your turn to shine:

    The paywall won't work, we already know that, since we already have a couple of "success stories" [sarcasm] we can learn from (NYT, for example).

    The interesting part would be finding a way to make money out of news. People clearly want news, but since they are not exactly scarce, not a whole lot of people are willing to pay for "news" per se. They'd rather pay for something more substantial.

    Now the real question is, what do we do then? Selling ads is one choice, but since people have the choice to block them, it's not terribly effective, I guess...

    But this is where you (and others) can pitch in.

    How do we make profit out of news? Brainstorm engage now!

    (Or can always just choose to verbally abuse me for daring to question your awesome logic...it's your call really)

     

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  15.  
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    Jay (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 5:35am

    Re: Re:

    Comedy does a lot better when it's not charged for.

    Think about George Carlin's standup available on Youtube. How about Gabriel Iglesias? Their satire isn't all that unique that it needs to be put behind the Emperor's New Paywall.

     

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  16.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 5:41am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Once again, I never said it would work. My guess is that it will not work. Even if the Onion's content is unique, there's a lot of free comedic competition on the net. I myself stopped reading the Onion for no reason at all. I'm assuming even more will stop reading if it becomes inconvenient.

    I'm just saying you can't compare it to paywall attempts at news websites. It's a completely different situation.

     

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  17.  
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    Lord Binky, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 5:43am

    BUT PEOPLE DO PAY...but I don't know what to say about those people...

    There are some some online communities that people pay to be a part of and do well. Something Awful comes to mind. Although I don't understand the attraction, but I will never pay to join so I can understand only to confirm I did not want to be a part of that community anyways.

     

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    JMG, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 5:49am

    Re:

    Ever since Herbert Kornfeld was found murdered, it hasn't been the same.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 6:09am

    Whenever I run into a pay wall that a friend has linked on facebook or whatever I immediately look for the story headline at another, non pay wall, news site and link it in their story saying

    "I couldn't read the article there cause they said I needed to pay up, these guys have it for free though!"

     

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  20.  
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    blaktron (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 6:23am

    Re: Re: *blink

    Pfft the only people who can break a story after its already on the internet are the AP.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 6:27am

    Re: Re:

    NYT's paywall did work. The way it was set up did indeed generate more revenue for NYT. Even Masnick had to sheepishly acknowledge this in a post not too long ago.

    Care to try again?

     

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  22.  
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    John Doe, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 6:44am

    Re: Re: Re:

    It is really too early to say it works. When the suckers that are paying finally realize they don't have to, how many will keep paying?

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 6:44am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Ok, so it works (assuming you are telling the truth, since you provide no links whatsoever). Then paywalls are the future of news?

    Should every news site opt for implementing paywalls then? And will that increase their profits? Final question: if it is such a good idea, why aren't more sites implementing it?

     

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  24.  
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    Richard (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 6:47am

    Re: Re: Re:

    he way it was set up did indeed generate more revenue for NYT.

    Still less than the money they spent setting it up - you can't say it worked until that cost is covered.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 6:53am

    Re:

    Bas, the problem is that merchandise and premium goods are unreliable as income sources. There is no direct relationship between number of users / visitors and actual sales. Yes, it is one route toward monetizing a site, but is it really a long term way to make it pay out?

    It gets back to the basics of any content oriented business model, what people are coming for is the content. That is what they desire, and that is what they value. We don't expect magazines to be free, we don't expect a visit to the movie theater to be free, we don't expect our dead tree edition newspaper to be free. The internet has bred a generation of people who think that content should be free, but that really isn't a long term sustainable income source.

    Perhaps Mike can enlighten us by giving us some insight on the old CwF t-shirt flogging that he has been doing. Beyond the initial rush, has it really been a nice solid source of income, enough to make the site into a profitable business? Or was it flash in the pan?

     

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  26.  
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    Cynthia Typaldos (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 7:05am

    Re: Donation buttons

    With Kachingle (my company) you can make voluntary micropayment contributions to anything. We've already added our donation widget to The Onion and just added it to Tech Dirt.

    Kachingle now has over 1500 sites (which can be anything from a blog to a website to a single YouTube channel or even a game or web app). Anyone can add anything using this simple form.

    List of All Sites/Blogs/Games/Apps already added to Kachingle.

    The Kachingle donation widget is a browser extension so there is no need for the producer to do anything except give us their PayPal email address (or we can send a check). It's $5/month for users - 85% of that money goes directly to the producers in the form of micropayments. We manage all PayPal fees (in and out) which are 8%, and we take 7%.

    I've hesitated to comment here because Mike trashed our attempt read here and here when we tried get the NYTimes to leave their blogs outside of the paywall.

    We've built our system to be user-centric. If our user wants to reward a producer -- including UCC on platform sites such as Flickr and YouTube -- we can make it happen!

     

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  27.  
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    Richard (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 7:13am

    Onion - carrot

    with a site like The Onion -- a carrot approach, rather than a stick approach makes a lot more sense

    If it was a stick of celery then maybe....

     

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  28.  
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    HothMonster, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 7:14am

    Re: Re:

    "we don't expect our dead tree edition newspaper to be free."

    I expect the paper onion to be free, I know the day it costs money is the Thursday I stop reading

     

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  29.  
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    John, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 7:14am

    I don't understand why people get ideological over paywalls. If a paywall helps the Onion make more money, it's a good idea; if it doesn't, it isn't. Surely their readership would drop but I don't see why that matters if they're making more money.

    I don't think there's any *a priori* reason why any given business model should succeed or fail; the market is a fickle thing and people's behaviors and attitudes change over time. The NY Times paywall has been a moderate success so far, and I think this will encourage more sites to experiment.

    So far, the only business model for turning eyeballs into dollars that works with regularity is advertising, and if I were to be ideological over anything it would be against advertising, which perverts the incentives of creators. (I don't use any "free" iPhone apps that have ads when paid versions without ads are available, for instance.)

    Personally, I would love to pay some sort of fee that would work like Ars Technica premium memberships but worked over many sites.

     

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  30.  
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    Sean T Henry (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 7:30am

    Re:

    I just clicked on ten stories and never received the "paywall".

     

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  31.  
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    Bas Grasmayer (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 7:33am

    Re: Re:

    It really wouldn't have been necessary to write this much if you had not omitted the 'services' part of "premium goods and services".

    Next question.

     

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  32.  
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    Bas Grasmayer (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 7:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Actually, if every news site did it; it would probably work.

    Keyword 'every' + a _very_ broad definition of news. However, when one opens up their whole site and just gets financed via ads or something more innovative, then they will drag all the others down.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 8:09am

    Re: @John: "the only business model for turning eyeballs into dollars"

    "So far, the only business model for turning eyeballs into dollars that works with regularity is advertising, and if I were to be ideological over anything it would be against advertising, which perverts the incentives of creators. (I don't use any "free" iPhone apps that have ads when paid versions without ads are available, for instance.)"

    First, I think that the advertising supported model is going to fail soon because now too dilute, and I can dodge the centralized parts of it with Noscript and a "hosts" file. Also, in a falling economy, advertising must shrink; it's only possible when the money is already rolling (perhaps as start-up capital), but its uncertain utility can't be maintained when things turn tough.

    2nd, what REALLY struck me in your comment about your apps is that you're being driven to PAY because of annoying advertising! That's a horrible trend, and being annoyed is a large part of why advertising is failing.

    If Mike doesn't solve the problem of how to make indirect income work, then the whole system is going to grind to a halt. And frankly, I don't think he will. My intuitive sense has always been that /in general/ advertising companies phony up their results and that buyers of it (VIPs for ads) fool themselves too so as to justify their existence. Of course, they cherry pick examples to "prove" that it does work.

    [Hedging exposition: /In general/ doesn't deny that advertising works in /mass/ markets, but that's sheerly by exposing the name to masses of dolts who are pretty predictable, true. I don't consider that to be the case in the new internet age with its targeted ads.]

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 8:20am

    Re: Re:

    The internet has bred a generation of people who think that content should be free, but that really isn't a long term sustainable income source.

    How much does it cost a user to use Facebook? Listen to music on Youtube? Read and post comments here on Techdirt?

    Oh that's right, to the user, it's all free!

    Stupid Generation Entitlement with their massive global communications network.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 8:28am

    Re: Re: Re:

    How much? Let's see. Facebook sends ads with every page view, they resell my information, and they try to track me all over the internet. I would say that Facebook is pretty expensive, actually. No, I don't have to write them a check, but they certainly do get checks as a result of me being on their service.

    Cost isn't always money paid. It's a basic economic concept, really. I am surprised Mike isn't here slapping you down for it. Oh wait, you are on his side, he would never do that!

     

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  36.  
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    frosty840, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 8:29am

    Re: Re: Donation buttons

    "List of All Sites/Blogs/Games/Apps already added to Kachingle."

    This is exactly the link that was missing from the Flattr frontpage.

    Good for you guys.

     

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  37.  
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    Michael (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 8:30am

    Re:

    I usually just check their headlines, but they have stories this week that were my favorites so far. I actually read an entire fake article yesterday.

     

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  38.  
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    Michael (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 8:34am

    Re: Onion - carrot

    Green onion stalk

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 8:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    John, by that logic, I think that the Techdirt CwF experiment is likely also a failure. I think the suckers stopped buying stuff in great numbers, and once they have paid once, it is unlikely that many are suckers enough to come back for another bite at the merch apple.

    I don't see Mike crowing about the long term success of the model, which is usually a good indication that it isn't working, because he doesn't want to talk about it.

    Remember all the "NYT is going to die" articles before the paywall? Then the numbers come out, it's pretty successful, and we get a single post and he no longer mentions their name. That should tell you everything you need to know, the paywall is way more successful than he would really want to admit or discuss.

     

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  40.  
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    bob, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 9:24am

    Re:

    You don't understand. It's all well and good for you to give your cash to a content creator, but that cash won't be going to others. So Big Hardware hates it when you give money to Big Content instead of buying yet another device.

    And don't forget that content behind a paywall can't be indexed by Big Search and this means that they can't sell advertising next to it. Is it any surprise that Big Search thinks that pay walls will break the web.

    Now ask yourself where techdirt gets its money. Ask yourself who is paying them to astroturf. You'll understand why paywalls are bad.

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 9:24am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The content is still free though. Nice try.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 9:32am

    Maybe The Onion is still pissed they didn't win the Pulitzer?!?!

     

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  43.  
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    CuteDucky, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 9:33am

    I am unemployed and can't afford to pay for Onion content so I won't be reading any Onion articles or visiting the site anymore. They will probably be successful with their paywall but they will lose visitors like me.

     

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  44.  
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    Michael Long (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 10:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    As the parent point out, it depends on your definition of free. Or in other words, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

     

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  45.  
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    Michael Long (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 10:27am

    Re: Re:

    "And don't forget that content behind a paywall can't be indexed by Big Search and this means that they can't sell advertising next to it."

    Please. It's simple to setup a page where you see the article summary or the first paragraph or so, and then a paywall login or ad to see the rest.

    And as such, "Big Search" can definitely index the "public" portion of the article.

    Don't blindly repeat arguments that aren't true.

     

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  46.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 10:30am

    Re: Re:

    Now ask yourself where techdirt gets its money. Ask yourself who is paying them to astroturf. You'll understand why paywalls are bad

    Hahahah. Nobody is paying us to astroturf, trust me. If you're implying we make money from Google, I'll say again, as we've said before many times over, that the money we make from Google AdSense pays for less than 10% of our bandwidth costs. It's tiny. These days Flattr actually makes us about the same amount as Google, honestly.

    But why let facts get in the way of your grand idiotic conspiracy theory?

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 10:30am

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

    I made you a digital lunch, for free! Where should I email it to?

     

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  48.  
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    Michael Long (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 10:32am

    Re: Re:

    "...but I don't pay for content and never will."

    So you're not a customer. Fine. Why should they spend money entertaining deadbeats who'll never buy a thing? Never make a donation? That block ads?

    My local coffee shop has a rule that basically requires people to, you know, buy coffee in exchange for sitting around and enjoying the ambiance.

    No coffee, no sittee.

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 10:35am

     

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  50.  
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    Michael Long (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 10:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Should every news site opt for implementing paywalls then? And will that increase their profits?"

    BINGO! Someone asked the right question!

    Here's the thing: You may think it's a bad idea. It goes without saying that Mike thinks it's a bad idea. But they don't KNOW if it's a bad idea.

    So as near as I can tell, they're TESTING THE IDEA. You know, testing? As in stop playing guessing games and find out whether or not it works for them?

    Even Mike admits that his CwC/RtB mantra doesn't work for everyone. Not everyone is the same, and different folks need to find out what methods and strategies work for them.

    The Onion is finding out.

     

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  51.  
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    Michael Long (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 10:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "My guess is that it will not work."

    You're guessing. They're conducting an experiment so they don't have to depend on guesswork.

    I'll take the results of one sold experiment over dozens of opinions and "informed" decisions any day of the week.

     

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  52.  
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    Michael Long (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 11:36am

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

    Sorry, I can't afford it.

     

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  53.  
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    Stephen, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 12:09pm

    Online ads are worthless. They pay about 1-3 dollars per 1000 views if you're really really really lucky. They're a joke. I'm surprised the Onion didn't realize the joke was on them earlier and do this.

     

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  54.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Actually, it wouldn't have to be all of the news sites, just the "source" sites.

    Think about it - even techdirt is pretty much beholden to the large newspaper / media sources for their root stories. Even when TorrentMike is taking from Torrentfreak, they are most often cribbing from mainstream media around the world.

    When it gets harder to source the material, the repeater sites will have less to work with.

     

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  55.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 2:08pm

    How much more Onion?

    Clearly this is an issue with them being more greedy. The main reason, I assume, is because after they got their high paying gig at comedy central they expanded their business with more expensive writers who demand more money.
    Sadly as anybody watching them on youtube has noted, their quality started to drop off after that. More expensive doesn't automatically mean better.
    I miss the old onion, they can keep the new one

     

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  56.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 2:13pm

    Re:

    Actually, TV and Paper ads are a joke. They get even less exposure then online, are impossible to monitor for traffic, but still pay ridiculous amounts of money because, and get this, they have no idea if the ads work at all!
    Ironic

     

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  57.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 2:18pm

    Re:

    And that's the problem, the prices for ad space in the physical world haven yet adjusted for what it's actually worth. Practically nothing, like you said, worthless.
    Companies that advertise are getting cheated, simple as that

     

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

  58.  
    identicon
    trish, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 2:57pm

    Re:

    Mike Masnick's business model theory:

    Charge for things that people will actually pay for. Don't come in and start charging for something that's always been free, and that you can still get elsewhere for free.
    You don't need an MBA to realize that do you?

     

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  59.  
    identicon
    Stephen, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 3:10pm

    Online ads are worthless

    They pay next to nothing. 1-3 dollards per 1000 pages is standard. You can't pay content creators on that. It only works out if you have a massive audience and produce no content, like Facebook. The Huffpo is one of the largest news sites, and last year its entire revenue was 30M dollars. That's nothing. Do you know what that is? A mid-sized car dealership. It's 42 million dollars less than what the NYT, with far fewer pageviews, will make from just its paywall customers. Oh, yeah... and when the NYT put up its paywall, online ad revenue went UP. Why? Cause advertisers now realize their only talking to people willing and able to spend money.

     

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  60.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 4:19pm

    Re: Online ads are worthless

    So wasting money for a news/opinion article = he'll buy a coke???

    Product producers are getting cheated once gain by the imaginary property industry. That person now wasted money on the news article, and has LESS money to spend on OTHER products. His budget isn't endless, the more he wastes on imaginary shit, the less he spends in other areas of the economy. More important areas of the economy as well. Ones that make real products and hire more workers.
    But its all psychology anyway when it comes to fooling the advertisers paying the real hard cash. They get nothing in return but promises and maybes. But that seems to work for the MAFIAA so who knows

     

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  61.  
    icon
    Bergman (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 4:46pm

    I'm not in the area the paywall would apply to, but in the spirit of The Onion, I'd be willing to put in my $0.02 in the name of satire...

     

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  62.  
    identicon
    Stephen, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 5:04pm

    Re: Re: Online ads are worthless

    What you're saying makes perfect sense, and, objectively speaking, is 100% correct.

    It also flies in the face of every single bit of marketing research ever. Look, it's a sad fact, but people say that the 100 dollar skin cream makes them look softer and more lovely than they 1 dollar skin cream with the exact same formulation.

    What your saying is what everyone said when the bottled water industry started to ramp up. And that now is a multi-dozens of billion dollars per year industry. You are correct. People ARE stupid. But here are some other facts- online ads pay nothing, and have been paying less and less with each passing year. Even the pre-historic classified sections at many newspapers/weeklies/magazines still bring in 2-4 times the revenue of the online initiatives at the same publications.

    The NYT just passed 225K online full paying subscribers, aside from the 100K who signed on from Lincoln, and another 60K who get e-editions. That was in less than three months. They only wanted 300K in one year and now are looking at more than 500K paywall subscribers. On top of that, they GREW online ads rev in spite of (OR BECAUSE OF) the paywall. And on top of THAT, they even saw print subscribers rise in the last three months, reversing a multi-year trend. I hope you got that last part...the paywall is causing print to GROW.

    The cat is out of the bag... paywalls are a GOLDMINE for high quality publications, and the Onion fits that bill. Oh yeah... and all the people that will just abandon online for the free copies of the Onion? They're giggling at the Onion with joy--- print ad revenue is worth 40x that of online.

     

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  63.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 5:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Online ads are worthless

    Interesting...I never said people are stupid.
    I said companies that advertise are getting cheated. Big difference. A nice clue from you then of what you think about consumers.
    "Look, it's a sad fact, but people say that the 100 dollar skin cream makes them look softer and more lovely than they 1 dollar skin cream with the exact same formulation."

    Market research? Conducted by marketing agencies naturally. I agree, people would say that. But that is the trick isn't it. They say that because of marketing. Cigars are good for your complexion after all.

    I still don't see what that has to do with the companies selling. Unless you mean the advertising agencies are using the same tactic they use to sell the product on companies to sell them ad space for it. In which case it confirms what I just said. They are getting cheated by media companies. Simple as that.

    "Even the pre-historic classified sections at many newspapers/weeklies/magazines still bring in 2-4 times the revenue of the online initiatives at the same publications."

    For the same reason. Lies and cheating. Lies and cheating. The only way they sold ads in those days. And what, you want that to continue? Dinosaur prices for dinosaur publishers. No wonder prices of everything continue to rise. I can see now who's been skimming the top. Fucking Bastards

    "The NYT just passed 225K online full paying subscribers, aside from the 100K who signed on from Lincoln, and another 60K who get e-editions. That was in less than three months. They only wanted 300K in one year and now are looking at more than 500K paywall subscribers. On top of that, they GREW online ads rev in spite of (OR BECAUSE OF) the paywall. And on top of THAT, they even saw print subscribers rise in the last three months, reversing a multi-year trend. I hope you got that last part...the paywall is causing print to GROW."

    Good for them.
    If those are the reasons. But I wouldn't wait for an independent research to verify those 'numbers'.
    Doesn't change the fact however, its bloody lies.

    "print ad revenue is worth 40x that of online."

    Old prices for Old people. The shame of it all

    "They're giggling at the Onion with joy"

    Sure, who wouldn't when they lie and cheat the one paying. Wall Street giggles too at hedgefunds and speculative curves. A rapist giggles at future victims. Doesn't make any of that right

     

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  64.  
    identicon
    Stephen, Aug 10th, 2011 @ 7:07pm

    "For the same reason. Lies and cheating. Lies and cheating. The only way they sold ads in those days. And what, you want that to continue? Dinosaur prices for dinosaur publishers. No wonder prices of everything continue to rise. I can see now who's been skimming the top. Fucking Bastards"

    Ok... so we agree on this. Print and TV ads are a total rip-off. You're totally correct. But advertisers pay what they pay, and the Onion wants to make money. And online is next to worthless. I'm not saying it's ineffective. It's just worthless, as in the value assigned to it by people who pay for it, is next to nothing.

    The folk who seriously think paywalls are going away... are deluded. There will ALWAYS be ways around them, but it looks like even if 1% of people pay... the economics work blindingly well.

    And yes, your comment on marketing has validity, but... bottled water. Bottled water, man! BOTTLED WATER!!! They put water in fucking bottles and tell me it's better than other, freer water, not in bottles. And they sell more of it to the public than some nations produce in their entire GDP.

    And no I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying the economics seem to be working out smashingly well.

     

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  65.  
    icon
    Cynthia Typaldos (profile), Aug 10th, 2011 @ 10:59pm

    Re: Donation buttons

    With Kachingle (my company) you can make voluntary micropayment contributions to anything. We've already added our donation widget to The Onion and just added it to Tech Dirt.

    Kachingle now has over 1500 sites (which can be anything from a blog to a website to a single YouTube channel or even a game or web app). Anyone can add anything using this simple form.

    List of All Sites/Blogs/Games/Apps already added to Kachingle.

    The Kachingle donation widget is a browser extension so there is no need for the producer to do anything except give us their PayPal email address (or we can send a check). It's $5/month for users - 85% of that money goes directly to the producers in the form of micropayments. We manage all PayPal fees (in and out) which are 8%, and we take 7%.

    I've hesitated to comment here because Mike trashed our attempt read here and here when we tried get the NYTimes to leave their blogs outside of the paywall.

    We've built our system to be user-centric. If our user wants to reward a producer -- including UCC on platform sites such as Flickr and YouTube -- we can make it happen!

     

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  66.  
    icon
    Just John (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 12:50am

    Re: Re:

    It could be that they are only doing it to users outside the US.

    I got the pop up.

    A joke site, asking me to pay. Yeah right...

     

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  67.  
    icon
    Troy Norcross (profile), Aug 11th, 2011 @ 11:50am

    When Pay-Walls make sense

    I believe that the Onion and other content sites should consider Pay Walls as a way to offer content to those consumers who - due to privacy concerns - wish to express a Do-Not-Track preference or block cookies or other ads.

    Content sites must be able to monetize their assets and if not through targeted advertising, then Pay Walls make sense.

     

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

  68.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 1:50pm

    Re:

    So what does that all prove? That you're right and most people are idiots?

    God, I would really hate for you to be right

     

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

  69.  
    identicon
    Getefix, Aug 11th, 2011 @ 2:45pm

    Response

    We have taken that feedback into consideration and are in the process of reducing the video ad load but it's going to take some time.

    On Aug 11, 2011, at 12:54 PM, Getefix wrote:

    You have somehow completely left out the value side of the equation. You do not offer to remove all other advertising in exchange for a subscription. What you essentially said was, now you have to pay three bucks a month to watch the 40-second video advertisement clips before you get to the comedy. What does the user get that he was not getting before? All you have done is remove value and demand payment to recover it. That is a shake-down. It is not a sustainable business model.

    From: Anne Finn
    To: getefix@yahoo.com
    Sent: Thursday, August 11, 2011 3:07 PM
    Subject: Re: Wow

    Hi Getefix,

    Thanks for reaching out. Maintaining an open line of communication and obtaining feedback from our readers is a top priority for us, especially when we're venturing into new waters.

    You are correct in noticing that we're testing out some new functions on our site. After 5 articles per month, non-U.S. readers will be prompted to pay either a monthly or annual fee for more access. We're looking at the overall effects of this - from site traffic to general reader satisfaction. While we've never had to ask our readers to contribute previously, we are adapting to ensure our content is around for years to come. We hope that you'll support us in our endeavors to remain America's Finest News Source and continue to visit our site and laugh with us in the future.

    Thanks again,
    Anne

    Anne Finn
    Communications and Public Relations Manager
    THE ONION | "America's Finest News Source"


    From: Getefix
    Date: August 11, 2011 9:07:39 AM EDT
    To: "businessdevelopment@theonion.com"
    Subject: Wow
    Reply-To: Getefix

    Just hit your paywall. Prepare to reap the whirlwind.

     

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  70.  
    identicon
    Donnicton, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 11:10am

    Re: Re:

    This week as compared to...?


    No, really, it's a serious question. Do you think that the frequency that you find stories there that you like to that extent warrants double digits a month?

     

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  71.  
    identicon
    chris, Aug 12th, 2011 @ 1:07pm

    Modeled after the NYT paywall? So it's not really a paywall at all. What about those who don't know delete their cookies or change their IP address? Well, that's part of the incentive to know WTF you are doing on the internet.

     

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  72.  
    identicon
    Marcel Dubois, Aug 13th, 2011 @ 10:56pm

    Re:

    Yeah, it doesn't matter if you're ruthlessly kicking out thousands of people from your current readership.

     

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  73.  
    identicon
    Duncan, Aug 16th, 2011 @ 4:52am

    Idiotic

    They're charging about as much as the Economist asks for; the Economist has an international team of researchers to fund. The Onion needs to pay a half-dozen comedians. It's the stupidest move I've heard of an online humour website since The Onion made its archives subscriber only and (in doing so) almost lost so many readers it meant the death of the site. They reversed this policy after a while because it was moronic. I wonder how long the pay wall will last. Better question: will The Onion get rid of the pay wall in time to still be able to save its readership?

     

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  74.  
    identicon
    KennyD, Aug 23rd, 2011 @ 6:14pm

    Canada...overseas?

    I've seen a few reports where The Onion states that people "overseas" are used to paying for other content and they want to test the paywall. Yes, here in Canada we are in a different country, but not exactly "overseas" and certainly not used to paying for content any more than Americans are. Ain't gonna fly here. What a disappointment. Won't be buying any more books.

     

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  75.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2011 @ 10:06am

    Outside the US...

    Once again Puerto Rico is forgotten when filtering content outside the US... not surprised.

     

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  76.  
    identicon
    Bluey, Jan 2nd, 2012 @ 9:05am

    onion paywall

    I used to read scim through the onion while multi-chatting. Since they've made it pay per view i stopped. It was an ok place to kill some time, but not worht $30. Interested to know if it works for them. I took them of my Favourites, so havent bothered to check in and see. Must do it some time.

     

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  77.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 5th, 2012 @ 2:45pm

    I've know the Onion for some time but only found out about their paywall today (yes, February 2012....). I googled "The Onion Paywall" because I wasn't sure if it was another one of their jokes or what... And I came accross this article here (for the record, I read Techdirt every day... not sure how I missed this article when it was published).

    Anyway, I guess the reason I never noticed the Onion's paywall is because I don't visit the Onion that much and never read more than 5 articles in a month.

    It's really disappointing. I believe in supporting those who bring you entertainment you like, I'm the kind of guy who'll buy a video game from an indie company just because I like what they do and hope to see them stay in business, even though I won't have time to play their game.

    But the Onion is not the kind of thing I feel comfortable supporting through a subscription. It feels like they're not asking for support but are just being greedy.

    Look, I want to laugh and forget about my worries, I don't want to go shopping and debate whether or not I can afford to pay for what they provide.

    Also, I don't need to pay in order to laugh. The web is full of free humor. And if the web runs out of humor, I can always talk to people and make humor myself. Yeah, when I'm done reading jokes on Sickipedia I go to Omegle and have a laugh with complete strangers about all kinds of stuff. The trolls, the pervs, or the clueless who don't seem to belong on Omegle - I can always turn a conversation with them into something funny.
    The idea of paying for humor, to me, is like paying for a bottle of pure oxygen when you can just open the window and breath for free.
    Their humor is not even better than the free humor I can find, so I don't even feel like paying them makes sense. If they were better than the free competition I'd feel like what they provide has more value and paying for it is ok, but as it is now I don't see why I'd want to pay them 2 bucks when I have access to Sickipedia for free.

    Now I have a few other problems with that paywall of theirs:
    I have no idea why they would need a paywall when so many other websites have no problems running for free. Actually I do see why they need a paywall, but it makes no sense to me: they're over-doing it. The Onion seem to be hiring actors, they use technical devices for their videos, special effects... that's probably not cheap. But at the same time, I wonder if they really need to take it so seriously and invest so much into it. Come on, it's humor, not a Hollywood movie! Go cheap, don't worry too much about the technical quality, as long as your jokes are good it's cool!
    They have professional writers to write their articles - why can't they "open source" it and let anyone submit articles? Plenty of talented would love to contribute to the Onion like they contribute to Sickipedia, so why not let them submit fake news articles and just take care of choosing which submissions you'll feature? Seems cheaper and makes your public happy as they can try their hand at contributing to the entertainment they love!

    It's not even like all their articles and videos are funny. Some are clever, but some are really lame. I expect lame jokes on Sickipedia because it's average people like me who are submitting them. However, if you are only going to allow professionals to contribute to your website, and if you are going to expect me to pay you, then I expect every single joke to be original, clever and funny.
    You think you can't satisfy these expectations? Then don't run a private club for pros only, and don't demand money.

    Also, reading this article here on Techdirt it seems the Onion wanted to test a paywall. Well, when that paywall showed up on the 6th article and asked for my money, my first reflex was "hell no". I did not see any option to inform them of my refusal to pay them and to explain why I wouldn't pay. What kind of test is this where they don't want feedback? Are they just counting how many people left their website without subscribing? If so, it's not even enough for a serious test.
    And how long is this supposed "test" supposed to run for anyway? It's been almost 6 months now, I would have thought 3 months would be long enough to test a feature... Is the test over and they decided to keep the paywall?

    This is just really sad. I liked visiting the Onion once in a while. Sometimes I would come across the summary of one of their videos or articles on another website and then I'd check out the full thing on the Onion's website.
    But now, I'm not even coming back to the Onion. Just lost interest completely. I'd have been happy donating 10 bucks if they needed money, but I just don't feel like paying a mandatory subscription. I'm not returning to the Onion, not even to read my free 5 monthly articles. I won't even bother to use a proxy to look like I'm in the USA, they disappointed me so I'm letting them go.

    Maybe I'll open my own free fake news website for amateur humorists. It's something I actually considered doing when I found out the Onion didn't accept submissions from the public 1 year ago.
    Well I don't know how to make a website so I won't really do this, but I bet somebody will take the Onion's place soon enough. It probably just didn't happen yet because the Onion is still free in the USA.
    (Speaking of which: why make only foreigners pay? You'd think the Onion would be more popular in the USA, so wouldn't you rather remain free in foreign countries so as to increase your popularity there?)

    None of this makes sense to me. But it's definitely a disappointment that cost them a regular reader.

    =/

     

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  78.  
    identicon
    Australian Bunion, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 7:15pm

    the onion

    As a long time fan of the Onion I was disappointed to see a paywall introduced.
    I admit I enjoyed the free articles, however I have purchased shirts, posters,books, cups and caps from the Onion Store.
    As previously mentioned there are plenty of free humour sites on the web available that don't require a subscription or limit you to five articles.

    I'll check back in on the Onion from time to time but if the paywall remains in place I won't be visiting the Onion Store any time soon.

     

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  79.  
    identicon
    Alice Inesophet, Jun 19th, 2012 @ 5:56pm

    No onion for me anymore.

    I must admit it is one hilarious website. However it is not essential, and in my 20 years i am now online i payed ONCE for a service i only receive something online. TF2 Hats...because i want to support a game that is pretty great.

    Onion however puts a Gun on your chest and says "pay up or else!" with the popup. I dont like this and i wont be visiting this site anymore.

    Publishers should learn from nature. If something is not attractive anymore or costs too much resources to obtain. It will be replaced. Instead of maybe using international AD`s (ads from the specific location one is in) they used the idiots apporach.

    Sad

     

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  80.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2012 @ 3:10am

    I'm not sure if the paywall is still up, but if it is you can just hit the stop button on your browser right when all the content loads but before the nagging popup and still read the articles. It pays to be tech savvy.

     

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

  81.  
    identicon
    Annoyed, Oct 12th, 2012 @ 4:15am

    I just got shafted on the Onion site

    I wanted to read about Biden's magic outfit and got this horrible paywall. Give me an f'ing break. Seriously Onion?

     

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

  82.  
    identicon
    John, Sep 22nd, 2013 @ 7:48am

    Long theonion paywall test

    Long test

     

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

  83.  
    identicon
    alex, Oct 29th, 2013 @ 3:37pm

    just found out about this.
    but, you can get around the paywall.
    inspect the element and delete those lines of code. so..It's not all so bad.

     

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


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