The Post-Star announced today that it will start charging readers for online content this week.
The paper is using a model similar to the one used by the New York Times. Readers will get 15 free "page views" (we wonder if that's page views or stories) per month. After that, you'll need a paid subscription -- "non-subscribers will not be able to click on headlines to view stories." The paper is charging print subscribers $1.95 per month for online access -- it will be $6.50 per month readers for everyone else.
The Post-Star is owned by Lee Enterprises, which is switching most of its papers over to a paywall. Lee filed for bankruptcy last year (the re-organization kind) in order to re-finance $1 billion in debt. The chain's CEO just got a $500k bonus for pulling off the re-fi. [St. Louis Post-Disptach] [Thomson Reuters] [Romenesko]
The Post-Star recently laid off a trio of reporters, and appears to be pulling back from covering Saratoga Springs. [Adirondack Almanack]
The highest profile pay wall experiment has been New York Times, which appears to be doing OK with it. The Boston Globe has been experimenting with one. The Wall Street Journal has charged for access for what seems like forever now. And, of course, locally the Daily Gazette also has a pay wall (yes, we know, you don't like it when we link to their stories). [CJR]
Why's this happening?
Revenue from print (the actual paper) has been declining significantly at most newspapers -- and the revenue from digital isn't filling the gap. Online is growing -- but the related ad revenue isn't comparable (oft quoted saying: "trading paper dollars for digital dimes"). Newspapers have made multiple rounds of cuts over the last decade in an attempt to maintain profitability. But at this point, many newspapers have been cut to the bone. So now they're looking for other revenue streams -- whether it's mobile/tablet apps, pay walls, whatever.
It's probably over dramatic to say newspapers are in a life and death situation. Many newspapers aren't going anywhere. But if they can't get their finances straightened out, it will mean significant changes to what we've all come to expect from them in terms of coverage. Public meetings going un-covered, leads not followed, issues not watchdogged -- all that stuff is already happening. And unless things change, it will probably get worse.
photo: Post-Star E-Edition
We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.