Rumor has it that the ARGUS LEADER will be moving towards Gannett's goal to reduce free on-line access to its newspapers in 2012. According to a Gannett blog dated December 7, 2011, the largest newspaper publisher in the country will reduce it's free for all access online and begin charging for digital access. Gannet started its paywall test in July 2010 with three of its newspapers, one being the Chicago Sun Times which has already begun charging for online access.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the business model of the print media needed to change in order to survive. Newspapers are losing money. Not a big surprise and I, for one, don't think they can blame it totally on the digital explosion. Have you looked at the local newspaper lately? The actual pages of news have been reduced to a couple of thin pages. The local news content leaves something to be desired with articles lacking investigative depth while basically regurgitating bland information with no hard line questioning.
There are always going to be people who want to get that newspaper delivered to their home. Where you once had to only open your front door and pick up your newspaper, you now must get dressed, put some shoes on and go hunt for it somewhere out on your front lawn, on the boulevard, or down your driveway close to the street, buried in the bushes or in your neighbor's yard. That is if you get the newspaper delivered that morning at all.
With the digital explosion, a lot of people are now choosing to get their news off their computers, through their smart phones or their iPads, Nook or whatever other tablet is now available. Gannett CEO Gracia Martore said the newspaper publisher needs to "capture revenue and profitability from our newspapers."
That from the newspaper giant who, in 2011 laid off over 700 employees nationwide while Bob Dickey, Gannett’s U.S. newspapers division president, was paid $3.4 million last year, up from $1.9 million the year prior. In the memo announcing the 700 nationwide layoffs, Dickey wrote, “While we have sought many ways to reduce costs, I regret to tell you that we will not be able to avoid layoffs.”
If you access the Chicago Sun Times link above, they were not immune to layoffs either. One day after the layoffs, the Sun Times announced their new paywall policy. The newspaper giant is no different than Wall Street and other big corporations who continue to pay their executives exorbitant salaries and bonuses at the expense of the people who are the backbone of their companies and who are obviously dispensable in their new business model to improve profitability.
The fee model for online access will be interesting to watch. If you want to subscribe to electronic access only, the ARGUS LEADER will charge you the same monthly amount that you would pay for a 7 day subscription of the print copy delivered to your home. I hope they rethink that price model when they introduce their new paywall policy in 2012. After the first 20 page views every 30 days, Chicago Sun Times readers will be required to pay $6.99 a month (or $77.87 a year) for continued access. I think the ARGUS LEADER could charge half that amount since we probably get half the newspaper news the readers of the Chicago Sun Times gets in their newspaper.
I am a user of the online access of the ARGUS LEADER after giving up on the dismally poor home delivery service and the inability to get satisfaction from customer service calls. When I do pick up a print copy laying around the salon or a restaurant, I am thankful I am not paying $18.89+tax per month for such a flimsy newspaper. I am willing to pay something for full on-line access but the newspaper needs to do its part too by providing me something newsworthy to read instead of bland stories and no investigative reporting.