Post-Star is starting a pay wall

post-star front page 2012-04-30The 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


Good luck. In 2012 "pay wall" tends to translate to "go get your news elsewhere, chump" to most people.

The Post-Star has been one of the best places to get news about Saratoga, since our local paper is missing in action. So I am disappointed about both bits of news: the paywall, and the reduced Saratoga coverage.

The New York Times and WSJ can afford to charge for content because they have very deep content that's worth the money. Also, I bet a high percentage of their online readers are physical newspaper subscribers who get it for free. (Do you have any stats on this?)

But for smaller local pubs, putting up a paywall instead of trying to run quality articles that attract readers and in return advertisers seems penny wise and pound foolish. It's like a bus company that raises prices and cuts routes because it doesn't have enough riders. Self-fulfilling prophecy for failure.

I'm looking forward to the story detailing the ending of that paper. It's only a matter of time. There's always free news content available, be it online of over the air. Newspapers that evolve will survive, those that don't will die.

The Post-Star is a struggling newspaper. They seem to be taking a very hard right editorial approach, that will mean that they will not be getting my money. Specifically, they are passionately anti APA, and anti conservationist. To me, these points can be argued in a civil manner, but a newspaper needs to present all sides of a story to maintain a sense of journalistic credibility. What will be missed are the local crime stories, car crashes, etc. Where will we get that?

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