Lots Of Newspapers Discovering That Paywalls Don’t Work – Techdirt

…newsroom I work in has a soft paywall. We have a pretty high number of free articles, and LOTS of stuff doesn’t count against it. Pretty much the only thing that does count against the paywall is local reporting.

The thing is, you’re not going to get much if any local journalism from other sources. The local TV stations are pretty weak onair, and even weaker online. So if you’re interested in consistent, reliable, local news, you’re going to wind up reading our work. The trick is making sure that our reporting is actually meeting the needs and wants of our audience (and doing it without sacrificing actual news while chasing traffic). Whether we can pull that off, and whether the citizens of our region have the means and desire to pay enough to support the work we do via this business model remains to be seen. I don’t love this model, but I don’t see a better one.

Going entirely ad supported has a lot of issues. Most important is the rate online ads pay. It’s a fraction of what print ads pay. The phrase used is ‘digital dimes for analog dollars.’ Smart, thoughtful advertising can improve this – more relevant, non-traditional, more targeted advertising developed as part of local campaigns trying to reach local people – but so far we’re just starting to take baby steps in this direction.

I don’t love the hybrid model we’re working with, and, while it seems the best option and there’s some promise, I don’t know if it’ll work. But if you live in our area, and you’d like to know how the city council is spending your money, or why the local PD shot and killed an unarmed man last week, or why the health department only seems to ding Mexican restaurants, or whatever, then someone’s got to support the reporters who dig into those stories.

Those reporters are a group of skilled, dedicated professionals who do a pretty good job, and they do it for peanuts. With the exception of delivering pizzas, the news pays less than anything I’ve ever done. Even the publisher makes less than $100,000 a year.

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