Tracy writes in to alert us to an attempt by a Milwaukee newspaper to get people to pay, specifically for investigative reporting, by publishing it in the paper a week before it goes online
for free and by offering it online only to paying subscribers:
Investigative reporting is the most expensive form of journalism produced by the Journal Sentinel newsroom. Because of the expense and resources it requires, we are giving our print and e-edition subscribers exclusive access to the Preacher's Mob series. We will be doing this on a regular basis with certain enterprise stories and investigations. Online readers will be able to see the full story later this week. For now, all readers can read this summary version below or click on several interactive and multimedia features, including a mini-documentary that contains jailhouse interviews, audio files of secret recordings of Michael Lock by a law enforcement informant, and an interactive map of key dates and places in the world of Michael Lock. With an e-edition subscription, you can read the full series as it unfolds over five days in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel starting May 17.
On the whole, I don't think this is as bad an idea as some others, but it's difficult to see how it'd be successful. If the details
of a story are really that interesting, then any other news organization in the area has incentive to at least report on the high points for free online and get all the online traffic that the Journal Sentinel should
have received. Also, the number of people who really think it's worth paying for a few investigative reports to get it a week before others get to see it seems like a very
small audience. I'd imagine the lost online ad revenue from not
drawing traffic to the website is a much bigger number than the incremental new subscribers who want to read the story at the Journal Sentinel.