Friday, January 28, 2011


Asking--“Are Newspapers Dead Yet?”--On The Media re-runs its newspaper paywall program, tune in

by Larry Geller

This week’s On The Media from WNYC is a re-run, but the topic is still, well, topical. If you missed it, check it out on the web from the link below, which is to the transcript, but you can get the audio also.

Here in Hawaii, the paywall situation is changing as Civil Beat opens up to the public. This is to our benefit, of course, but the question will be is it to theirs, since it seems they want to make a profit somehow.

The program covers both sides. I have my views, so I like this particular snip.

BOB GARFIELD: You've said that journalism is a public service but, of course, public service isn't the same thing as charity. Who’s going to pick up the tab for your noblesse oblige?

ALAN RUSBRIDGER: We're actually making quite a lot of money on the digital side of the business already. In the current year we will make about 40 million pounds. This is not a trivial sum that we're earning, and that comes from having an audience of something like 35 million around the world.

The experience of others so far is if you put a paywall around general content - and the only people who have successfully done it so far are people who have specialists, generally financial content - is that you lose something like between 90 to 97 percent of your audience.

That seems to me one of the reasons for not rushing behind a paywall because, actually, one of the things we have is extremely large audiences who still believe in our brands. And that advantage is not going to last forever, and that’s why I'm not in any hurry to decimate my audience.

[WNYC, Should Newspapers Charge for Content Online?,7/16/2010]

Civil Beat does not have an extremely large audience in comparison, and this reasoning may not apply. Perhaps, anyway, it is safe to say they’d like a larger audience than they have.

And so the experiment continues. I’m happy to have access to Civil Beat articles and will begin to read them now that I can, and cite them when appropriate. The on-line media in Hawaii are holding their own very nicely and filling a void now that we’re down to one daily paper which is aligning itself with our TV conglomerate.

If only they had daily comics, I could try to do without my morning paper.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.


Do you have any idea how many Civil Beat articles you can now read for free? I've just clicked through 10 and never hit a paywall.

What future does a free site that accepts no advertising have?

They don't explain much, but have the financial resiliency to figure it out.

As the On The Media story explains, some of the largest newspaper websites are subsidized. I have no idea if that's what Pierre Omidyar is doing now or plans for the future, but they are still going, and have capable staff. I'd hate to see it fail, especially now that they have finally arrived in Honolulu as part of the journalistic scene.

Civil Beat provides a very valuable service to the community, thanks to Pierre & Randy. They continue to expand their capable staff. Hopefully more of the community will turn off the supposed local news programs to tune into the internet. Civil Beat is challenging what is left of journalism at the Star-Advertiser, too.

After about a week CB asked me for a "registration" with an email address and confirmation process but so far it is still free.

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