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As expected, Gannett is paywalling all of its newspapers, except USA Today. That means you will soon have to pay to access the Democrat and Chronicle online. A timetable and subscription rates have not been announced. Gannett will also launch new desktop, mobile and tablet products.

I’ve been enjoying the D&C online for quite some time. You will never see me read a print newspaper again. I don’t mind paying, but I’m eager to see the rates. Gannett has been testing paywalls at some of its newspapers at a rate of $9.95 a month or $2 a day for an all day pass. People who don’t subscribe will be able to read a limited number of articles.

There is a risk to this strategy, as GigaOm points out:

But to me, the biggest flaw in a paywall isn’t that the math is questionable, or even that a wall is inherently a backward-facing strategy, aimed at stacking sandbags around a paper’s content to try to keep out the digital hordes. The biggest flaw from a business perspective, particularly for smaller newspapers, is that walling up your content is an invitation to free competitors — from AOL’s Patch.com and Huffington Post to Mainstreet Connect and Neighborhoodr and Topix.net — to come and take away your readers.

Media companies have to figure out how to turn their millions of page views a month into dollars. The audience is there and I’ve long thought they should be able to make money on those eyeballs without charging.

The D&C is an incredibly important asset in this community, having the most journalism resources. That said, I hope the additional revenue means Gannett will provide more online content, link to past articles and outside news sources, stop laying off reporters and provide more overall value. They’ll have to do those things to keep us – and stay in business.

19 Responses to Gannett Paywalls Going Up

  1. I already subscribe to their paper version and often check things out online. I will not pay for both and would expect that people who subscribe to the printed version should have free access to the online

  2. Perhaps this leaves an opening for other media companies, but the fact of the matter is that journalism costs money – when was the last time you saw AOL show up at a local zoning board meeting or do in-depth enterprise journalism that takes time and resources to put together? Maybe there’s a place for aggregators like HuffingtonPost, but someone somewhere has to do the original reporting or it doesn’t work.

    I’m in the same camp, hoping that more revenue means more reporters, more local content and a better overall product.

    • Matthew: Your AOL comment is accurate … to a point. In fact, showing up a local meetings is what Patch.com is doing. It’s also something the D&C ceased ages ago, having cut back on staffing so that only a couple of towns have reporters who do the majority of their work there (Greece, for instance). I think the D&C has one reporter more or less responsible for the six towns on the western edge of the county. That’s practically useless with respect to timely coverage as was witnessed recently in the LeRoy uproar. Until a couple of weeks ago, the D&C was relying on WGRZ-TV in Buffalo to cover developments related to the mystery illness.

  3. they sould pay us to read it

  4. February 22, 2012 at 6:08 pm NoThanks responds:

    I cancelled home delivery because of the poor quality of the product and I will not pay for online content for the same reason. The D&C is not objective in its reporting and business content is virtually non-existent. Someone moved their cheese and they don’t know it…

  5. they cut back on the amount they put in the paper now mostly all adds rather spend my money on something use full lioke toilet paper

  6. Is today April 1st? Already?

  7. February 22, 2012 at 9:39 pm James Simons responds:

    I have always enjoyed reading the local paper, though like many I have been annoyed with the amount of cutbacks they have made. This past year I tried to have daily delivery, because even though I’m young I still enjoy reading an actual newspaper. But the delivery experience was a disaster. For whatever reason our delivery person refused to be consistent. We had to call customer service several times a week. After a few months of the nonsense we gave up. I can’t imagine paying for the D&C now even though I read it every day. The services would have to be fantastic.

  8. The spin is that this plan grows revenue and, thus, maintains (or improves) the local product. I’d be more willing to buy into that if not for the announcement Wednesday that Gannett is increasing its stock dividend by 150 percent. Some quick math shows the first $110 million or so in new revenue generated goes back to stockholders EACH AND EVERY YEAR just to cover that increase. At a likely $10/month for an online subscription, that’s around 920,000 people across the U.S. who would have to subscribe. Based on circ numbers, Rochester’s share would be 25K or more online customers just to break even on the dividend increase. That number itself is implausible, never mind adding even more paywall subscribers to cover the other expenses and purported improvements.

  9. February 23, 2012 at 9:03 am Tim Kampas responds:

    Beginning of the end I’m afraid. I use to subscribe to their RSS feed, but I recently unsubscribed as I decided it wasn’t worth the investment in time. Their content is mostly redundant, a day late, and frankly not interesting. And it seems like 50% of their news is writing a paragraph about who got a DWI yesterday. Who cares! It’s a waste of my time and it clutters the data stream. In my opinion, they are doing a really bad job of winning my entertainment dollars.

    Outlets like this blog are the future. Someone from Rochester (engaging), has a stake in its future (passionate)and conveys that through thought provoking and interesting reporting.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Tim, blogs are very important and some of my content is stuff I generate. But some of it is aggregated from other sources, like the D&C. We need journalism. We need the newspaper. But media outlets have to reinvent themselves.

      • February 23, 2012 at 10:18 am Tim Kampas responds:

        We need journalism and its needs to reinvent itself, but newspapers are not needed. Here’s my analogy, Data transfer is important but the pony express is no longer needed. I honestly do not think I will ever buy another newspaper in my life. Here’s why:

        If you only read the sports section, why buy the whole paper. If you only read about Soccer, why buy the entire sports section, and if you only read about the english premier league why buy a rochester paper. Content/Journalism is becoming hyper local. The newspaper is a middle man.

        Do you follow syracuse basketball? Here’s the best three blogs, top forums, top recruiting website, the official university website, and all the players twitter/facebook accounts. And you can aggregate them all into one easy place to read. A newspaper will never compete with that.

        • Tim: Very nicely done.

          Let me take it a step further. The D&C does not have the niche coverage areas that people would be racing to subscribe to digitally, whether as free RSS or behind a pay wall.

          There are no major-league or substantial Division I sports here, a paucity of Fortune 500 companies (and fewer still with an HQ presence here) and only two research-caliber universities.

          This is not a market that you want to give people the “pay or else” ultimatum. It’s too easy for them to choose “or else.”

  10. When the D&C puts up a paywall is when I stop reading it altogether. The day I started working for the president of the county legislature, I was told that every staffer was expected to read the paper every day, to keep an eye out for anything affecting the boss. From that day forward I read the paper everyday, and kept the habit after we lost the legislature majority and lost our jobs.

    But I bought my last D&C when the price rose to 75 cents. I had been growing increasingly disappointed with the quality, especially as compared with the Buffalo News, which I also purchased every day. Shortly thereafter, the Buffalo News also increased to 75 cents, and I gladly continued buying it as the quality more than merited it.

    BTW, about quality comparisons between the D&C and the Buffalo News: it always fascinated me that newstands & even corners stores all over Rochester sell the Buffalo News — and it often sells out — yet in Buffalo there is literally only one place to find the D&C. Wegmans. Dick Tobias was right on when he called the D&C “The Daily Fish Wrapper” (of course, in his day, it was actually big enough to wrap fish in).

    When the D&C is paywalled, I’ll be getting my Rochester news from City and the Smugtown Beacon. And of course, from the Rochesterian and Rochester’s #1 Twitter feed — thank you for both of those, Rachel!

  11. R,

    Pay for what? The Gannett universal template layout is awful, not to mention its inability to eliminate redundant articles and formats that are still confusing even after the supposed re-design some time ago.

    There is this penchant in the printed media to layout web pages like a newspaper. It’s a long story. It’s not a newspaper or a magazine. Google web2 or web3, please.

    One thing the web does is open the door for advertisers to ask exactly how many potential customers have clicked on an ad instead of just viewing it or blocking it. Click thru viewing with the ultimate ability to track buyers for some products and services will never be embraced by print oriented media becasue it would reveal that the prices they charge for advertising in print do not return much to the customer.

    Like so much else in the digital world, customers are coming up the learning curve kinda slow around ROC. Actually, the local TV news web pages and stories are much better than the D&C.

    This is not a western New York issue. The Buffalo News still has a great journalistic value and a good web page. But, with all of them, ad prices that are based on click-thrus and puchases will separate the wheat from the chaffe. It’s the elephant in the board room and nobody wants to talk about migrating to it.

    In the meantime, blogs like this will blossom and collaborative knowledge sharing free of institutionalized political bias will flourish.

    Ain’t this Info Age the berries?

  12. @Ben C. More like the Blackberries #rimshot

    Seriously, interesting perspective there about the clickthrus.

    • RaChaCha: there are so many possibilities with charging for advertising on a click-thru, referral and ultimately purchase basis it staggers the mind.

      How about instead of a still shot of an auto dealer ad on a print page, you get an interactive click thru that logs you into a dealer’s inventory where you can shop and select a vehicle for potential purchase, all while being metered ala Amazon.com, associate member process, including an ultimate purchase upon which the D&C shares revenue and fees from the transaction all the way thru the process.

      If they click-thru they’re interested. Like eBay, if they searched for the item, clicked on it and bid, & have a PayPal account they’re interested.

      This instead of full page print ads that are impossible to guage exactly what you paid for in terms of profitability for the customer.

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