Newspapers And The Saywall: Lots Of Talking... Few Paywalls

from the just-do-it dept

All year long we've been hearing story after story of newspapers insisting that they're going to implement a paywall and make readers pay like they used to. Of course, the idea that they ever paid for the news is a myth, but to date the bigger myth seems to be that newspapers are going to start charging. Sure, there are a few that have been charging for a while, but for all the talk about paywalls, they've really just been "saywalls." No one's actually made a move. Alan Mutter seems to be suggesting that the folks who run newspapers are all pretty much paralyzed by fear. They know that charging will kill off ad revenue, and they're not really convinced that the paywall will fix that. They're right. Putting up a paywall is a dumb strategy that will fail for all but a very small number of publications. So why are they all talking about it without doing it? My guess is it's a signaling method. They're hoping that if they can sort of peer pressure each other into it, a bunch of papers may all do it at once and there would be some sort of safety in numbers. In reality, it's a failure of understanding the basic business they're in, and a timid response, rather than a smart one. It's frustrating, but the answer is for newspapers to shut up or put up. If they say they want a paywall, put it up, and let's watch it fail. Or if they want a real strategy, they should try giving us a call, and we'll lend them a hand.
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Filed Under: journalism, paywall


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  • identicon
    TheStupidOne, 20 Aug 2009 @ 8:04pm

    Do they even realize?

    That even a registration wall will stop many people from viewing their site. Anytime I am linked to a website that makes me register in order to read something I leave and look for a link that doesn't have any requirements. I read this site daily and comment frequently, but I don't want to register. However I'll admit that if you put up a registration wall I'd sign up.

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

    • icon
      zcat (profile), 20 Aug 2009 @ 8:55pm

      Re: Do they even realize?

      Funny thing; I did register at this site, after months of anonymous reading and the occasional comment. But if all the content had been behind a registration wall I guarantee you I would just gone elsewhere and never given this site a second look.

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

      • icon
        Marcus Carab (profile), 20 Aug 2009 @ 9:17pm

        Re: Re: Do they even realize?

        On top of that, the fact that I could comment without registration when I first got here was a huge attraction. Then once I realized that the comment section here usually contains a lot of lively and interesting discussion, I signed up (the script that recognized me as a commenter and offered to associate all my past comments with my account only sealed the deal)

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

    • identicon
      Ilfar, 20 Aug 2009 @ 9:50pm

      Re: Do they even realize?

      I check this site every day, but if I had to register to read articles, I'd just stop reading even now. I didn't even read the comments till I realise they were from people who didn't have to sign in to do so.

      No barriers means more interesting stuff finds it's way here. I suspect I'd be horrified to find out how many spam posts get removed over the course of a day here though ;)

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

  • identicon
    Sean, 20 Aug 2009 @ 8:20pm

    never visit sites with walls

    I don't even go to Cnet anymore since they require registration to comment. A barrier of any kind will just drive visitors elsewhere.

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

  • identicon
    Ron, 20 Aug 2009 @ 9:01pm

    How to get around the "Wall"

    HEre is a "little" trick to some Paywall sites or "Join/ Signup" to "see" the rest of the article....

    Copy the Articel Headline by highlighting the Healine, and copy and then paste it into Google or Yahoo's search, and then search..you will find an alternate "way in" on the Full Article....( Note: If it is interesting enough to follow/ read.) I do this every time for a few sites, including Wall Street Journal...

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

  • icon
    wirtes (profile), 20 Aug 2009 @ 11:02pm

    People ARE paying for content...

    ...they pay with their time.

    While users spend money on a few websites, they spend a lot more of their time on the Interwebs.

    The leaders in the newspaper industry should concentrate on giving their users more value for the time they spend with them.

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

  • identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 21 Aug 2009 @ 6:20am

    A Kind of Advertising Which Might Work

    Let us say, as an agreed starting point, that newspapers are in the advertising business, and, further, that given their advertising business is broadcast rather than targeted. I suggest that the core of broadcast advertising is legal notices.

    Legal notices, by their nature, are not designed to actually communicate with anyone. They are designed to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the advertiser made a good-faith attempt to contact interested parties. One kind of legal notice has to do with collection of debts. In one instance I saw, a local lumberyard published, as a classified advertisement, an itemized bill for about $29,000 worth of assorted building supplies which they had delivered on credit to a local contractor building a custom home. It took up a whole page of the newspaper, ie. ten dollars worth of this, and twenty dollars worth of that, and so on. In a situation like this, it is assumed that the person the advertisement is ostensibly addressed to is alternately hiding in order to avoid being legally served, and sending his lawyer into court to insist that he never heard that the creditor wants its money.

    Job advertisements in local newspapers are really another kind of legal notice, having to do with the fair-employment laws, and more recently, with H1B visas. If you look in the local newspaper, you will perhaps find that the local hospital is advertising for a surgeon, or that the local engineering school is advertising for a new professor of Metallurgical Engineering. That kind of advertisement is not really designed to find someone. People within a profession tend to know each other, locally, and they tend to be comfortable moving across the country to a new job. The advertisement is really designed to allow the local faith-healer to state his claims, and have them rejected in a regular way. If you don't give someone like that full due-process, a court may do it for you.

    The implication of this is that if you increase the advertising rates, the people trying to sell stuff to the public will drop out, but the legal-notice people will swallow the increase. There are things you can do to sweeten the bargain. For example, you can guarantee that a legal notice will run on the same page as a substantive local news story, so that anyone who reads the news story is bound to glance at the advertisement for a second or so, long enough to see if they recognize any of the names or addresses.

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

  • icon
    maclizard (profile), 21 Aug 2009 @ 7:43am

    What "saywall"

    I have read all sorts of articles on this proposed paywall idea, but every paper that I work with has said that they have no intentions of implementing such. This leads me to believe that the paywall concept is all hype created by NewsCorp.

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


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