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April 25 2012

16:27

April 23 2012

14:00

A Progress Report on a College Paper's Pioneering Metered Pay Wall

It was just over a year ago that a college newspaper in Oklahoma became a digital media pioneer.

In what was believed to be a first for a college news outlet, The Daily O'Collegian at Oklahoma State University began charging for online content. Sure, the Wall Street Journal, Times of London and other professional publications had already gone for pay walls, but college newspapers are known for being a free and readily available resource on campus and online. As one commenter put it when the news broke, "They might as well charge a million dollars."

Bloggers and media watchers shared the skepticism. Why restrict access to work by student journalists who need all the exposure they can get? Who would pay for student content? Should they even have to, given that student newspapers are more about training future journalists and serving a campus community than turning a profit?

The O'Colly's decision to charge was more of a "why not?" than a grab for riches or precedent. General manager Ray Catalino figured it was worth placing a value on the outlet's content, and said he'd be happy if 100 subscribers signed up in the first year.

With that year now up, how is it going? Was it indeed a pioneering move in the march to monetize online content, or another failed experiment in the wild west of the web world?

Of course, the answer isn't simple or even fully formed yet.

The Update

paywallocollegian.png

The O'Collegian worked with a company called Press+ to launch what both call a "metered system" in March 2011. After viewing three free articles within a month, readers outside a 25-mile radius of the Stillwater campus and without an .edu email address were asked to pay $10 for a year of unlimited access. Those who said yes will be automatically renewed each year unless they cancel.

Press+ launched in 2010 and counts media entrepreneur Steven Brill among its three co-founders. The company works primarily with professional outlets to monetize online content through donation solicitation and metered systems. (Brill repudiates the term "pay wall" because readers are usually given some free content before being asked to pay. Others just call that a softer pay wall.)

A year in, Catalino's admittedly informal goal of 100 paid subscribers was met and exceeded. On the one-year anniversary, there were 156 paid subscribers, and as of last week there were 177. Not a windfall, considering the paper has a print circulation of 25,000 and a regular online audience of 2,000, but enough that Catalino recently upped the annual fee to $15 for new subscribers.

There wasn't any national news on the OSU campus that might have lured a burst of new paid subscribers. They came slow and steady, never exceeding three per day. Looking ahead, Catalino has budgeted $3,000 to $4,000 in revenue from online subscribers for the next fiscal year -- again, a mere drop in the outlet's $700,000 budget, but a drop nonetheless.

"The pay wall to me is almost a no-brainer," Catalino said. "It's very simple to implement; it's basically a technical change, and the money comes in. And as long as you're providing good content, it continues. So it has very little cost, has a nice upside and very little downside, in my opinion."

So how is it going? Well enough that the O'Colly will keep charging, and might even further up the price if readers continue to show a willingness to pay. But it's no cash cow and likely won't be anytime soon.

The Impact

Once anathema in the wide open world of the Internet, the idea of charging for online news content is becoming more comfortable for publishers squeezed by plummeting print subscriptions, declining ad sales, and few other revenue options.

Press+ began with 24 clients. Another 300 have signed up since then, and still more are devising their own pay systems and seeing some success, the most prominent example being The New York Times. Those who sign up with Press+ generally pay a set-up fee of a few thousand dollars and hand over 20 percent of revenue.

The O'Collegian was the company's first college publication, but others quickly followed suit, including Boston University's Daily Free Press, the Kansas State Collegian and Tufts University's Tufts Daily. Grant money from the Knight Foundation covered the set-up fee for those that got in early, including the O'Collegian, but Press+ now offers colleges a 10 percent discount as an enticement.

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Brill says college newspapers are not a huge business priority for Press+ and counts about 50 on the client list, but he predicts that more and more will turn to the company for help with either seeking donations (the option most current clients choose) or charging for online content.

"We wanted to seed the landscape there and have them benefit from it," Brill said of colleges. "We'll probably have twice the number today by next winter. It's worked well, and it's easy. It doesn't take any work on their part. It's found money."

Brill says the company's geo-location technology is crucial for college outlets because they can aim pay requirements solely at readers outside the campus community, preserving limitless access for students, faculty members, and local residents. If a mega-story breaks and a college newspaper wants full exposure for its content, it can exempt that coverage from the metered system.

The Implications

So the Press+ client list proves that at least some college papers are willing to ask online readers for money, and OSU's first year suggests that at least some readers are willing to comply. Neither addresses the question of whether student publications should make this move.

Dan Reimold, a journalism professor and student media adviser at the University of Tampa in Florida, wrote in January 2010 that college media "should ignore the siren song of pay walls." Why? Because as professional outlets increasingly wall off their online content, college media might become a viable alternative for readers, and because student journalists deserve maximum exposure for their work.

Reimold's opinion today is essentially unchanged. He applauds the O'Collegian for taking the lead on new ways to make money. And he obviously recognizes the significance of their decision to charge, because he broke the news of it on his blog, College Media Matters, in January 2011. But he worries about the long-term implications of a world in which online student content is increasingly restricted.

"I still feel strongly that it is not such an effective revenue technique that it should trump the main purpose of the student press, which is enabling students to get exposure for their work and hopefully join a larger conversation that will help them learn more about the process of reporting things to the world," Reimold said. "The learning vehicle aspect should trump the notion of restricting access."

Brill counters that his company has found no evidence that charging for content restricts the number of unique visitors to a site. If people don't want to pay, they might stop reading for that month, but they return the next month.

Personally, I'm not convinced that access to a student's work, and therefore valuable exposure for that student, remains unchanged in a pay wall world. How can it, when a reader might have read 10 stories but stops at five because he or she won't pay for more?

At the same time, I'm not sure the siren song should be avoided. Professional news publications must find new revenue sources to survive, and their online content does have value. If readers don't agree, that's that. But if they are willing to pay, and remarkably it looks like many are, then why not keep this trend rolling? And why not train future publishers, editors and reporters (not to mention consumers) that it's OK to put a price on such work?

Alexa Capeloto is a journalism professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/City University of New York. She earned her master's degree at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, and spent 10 years as a metro reporter and editor at the Detroit Free Press and the San Diego Union-Tribune before transitioning into academia.

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April 17 2012

13:32

Pay Walls and Social Media Could Shift the Public Agenda

If conversations around digital journalism have been dominated by anything in the first quarter of 2012, it's probably been about subscriptions, also known as pay walls. Walls are going up at the L.A. Times and Gannett papers, and getting higher at The New York Times. And the editor of The Guardian asked his readers, "What would you give the Guardian? Money, time or data?"

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At the end of last year, Raju Narisetti proposed a pay wall alternative he dubbed the "'Why don't we pay you?' pay wall" ... and then left the unwalled Washington Post for the walled Wall Street Journal.

The conversation all this time has been focused on whether the shift toward digital subscriptions will save the news business. But the more interesting and important question is whether and how it will change the news content and public discourse.

There's never been a question that people will pay for digital content. Give people information they need to profit professionally or enjoy personally, and they will pay for it. But what about all the boring and bad stuff? What about the kind of iron-butt reporting that has journalists cover legislative subcommittee meetings just so powerful people know the public is watching? And the quarter million-dollar investigations that find the hidden winners and losers?

That news doesn't entertain; it doesn't give me a competitive edge; and it doesn't save my family money in the short run. Those kind of stories make big waves every now and again, but no matter how high the pay wall, once the story is out, it spreads via broadcast news, social media and word of mouth. Even those who don't pay for it get to benefit from its impact.

social media's role

The role that social media plays in the subscription pay model isn't fully understood -- by me at least. I'd like to find the time to ask about whether paying subscribers share more or different stories than non-subscribers.

In any case, with a pay wall in place, subscribers will -- as always -- set the agenda more than non-subscribers. Some subscribers will be more influential than others, either because they have more followers or because they provide a better filter. In either case, the future of public discourse lies with subscribers. We need to know more about who they are and how their desired public agenda differs from non-subscribers.

It's easy to suspect that only the elite would pay for news -- only people whose personal social and economic decisions are determined by taxpayer money and public markets -- and that the topics that interest those folks may not be particularly populist.

But then I stumbled across a January 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center that seems to indicate that the willingness to pay for news may not be as elitist as I originally thought: African Americans and Hispanics are significantly more likely than whites to say that they would pay a monthly subscription fee if that was the only way to get full access to their local newspaper online. But there's no significant difference among any age groups under 65, nor is there a difference between men and women. On the other hand, college grads and people who make more than $75,000 a year are more likely to say they would pay for online local news than people who make less and have less education.

So does the public discourse look different if the people who subsidize original reporting -- and then share it -- are rich, educated, racial and ethnic minorities? After paying to see the news, what would they share? And who would they share it with?

the social distribution of news

The democratization of publishing means that alternative points of view would always be waiting in the on-deck circle anytime the paid-stream media misses a story its audience cares about. So it's also important to predict what kind of effect the audience's sharing patterns would have on journalists who want to make sure their pay walled reports remain valuable enough to make ends meet.

The social distribution of news has two benefits for news organizations -- they sell advertising against each unique visitor, and they have an opportunity to convert the social media samplers into paying subscribers. But if the role of advertising at news organizations becomes a significantly lower share of revenue, then eyeballs alone won't matter as much. News organizations might be less interested in running "water cooler" stories that are cute and fun alone. And they might be more inclined to run stories that target an audience that wants more than 140-character summaries.

Research collaborations between academics and industry could help us make better guesses -- and making good guesses on this topic will be important for any news organization that understands it doesn't sell ads or subscriptions, but trust and influence.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Aunty P.

March 30 2012

16:32

Daily Must Reads, March 30, 2012

The best stories across the web on media and technology, curated by Lily Leung.

1. On Twitter, Rupert Murdoch vows revenge for recent News Corp. coverage (NY Magazine)



2. Digital publishers must be bold to win back lost ad dollars (Wired)



3. The future of pay walls, memberships and online ads (Digidave)



4. Twitter hires from Europe's TV industry to increase 'artful' media engagement (The Next Web)



5. "Twitter has ruined the pastime of patting a reporter on the back for breaking news." (Bleacher Report)




Subscribe to our daily Must Reads email newsletter and get the links in your in-box every weekday!



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March 29 2012

16:14

Daily Must Reads, March 29, 2012

The best stories across the web on media and technology, curated by Lily Leung.

1. Journalists forced to go camera-free while covering healthcare law talks (TVNewser)



2. The president joins Pinterest (SocialTimes)



3. Fox planning a national sports network to rival ESPN (The Wrap Media)



4. News orgs mine social media for data, but the results aren't perfect (Poynter)



5. New Google product aims to be a pay wall substitute (PaidContent)




Subscribe to our daily Must Reads email newsletter and get the links in your in-box every weekday!



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December 28 2011

15:20

Top 10 Media Stories of 2011: Arab Spring; R.I.P. Steve Jobs; Phone Hacking

Yes, 2011 was another year of massive change in the American media landscape, with newspapers struggling, radio and TV trying to sharpen digital strategies, and magazines prettying themselves for tablets. But more often than expected, we turned our eyes overseas, to the role of social media in organizing protests and revolutions in the Arab world. To the spread of Facebook and freer speech in places like Egypt and Libya. And to the shocking phone-hacking scandal that brought the News Corp. empire to its knees, shuttering its most popular tabloid, the News of the World (published since 1843).

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As smartphones and tablets proliferated, the reality of mobile news (and advertising) finally came into focus after years of failed promises. News orgs big and small tried to cash in on mobile editions, with mixed success. While Apple and its dominant iPad platform demanded a 30% cut of digital subscriptions -- and the customer data -- publishers fought back with "web apps" that went around the App Store and its restrictions. As more Android tablets, including the popular Kindle Fire, got into the hands of consumers, the chance that more people would ditch print editions for digital grew.

So here's our annual list of the Top 10 media stories that mattered most in 2011, and some predictions of where those stories are headed in 2012.

Top 10 Media Stories of 2011

1. The Arab Spring and the "Facebook revolutions."

What started as protests in December 2010 in Tunisia, after a college graduate set himself on fire, turned into a Middle East-wide revolution of people rising up against totalitarian regimes. In Tunisia and Egypt, the ruling governments fell, and in Libya a long civil war led to a rebel victory (aided by NATO). What many of these revolutions had in common was organizing done with social networks, especially Facebook, and news spreading virally over Twitter and YouTube. And that formula was repeated in protest movements outside of the Middle East, including in the Occupy Wall Street protests here in the U.S.

While social media played a crucial role in organizing protests and spreading the word to people in the outside world, the revolutions were not dependent upon them. When the Egyptian authorities shut down Internet access, that didn't stop people from human networking and organizing person-to-person to keep protests alive. As Miller-McCune's Philip Howard wrote:

Overemphasizing the role of information technology diminishes the personal risks that individual protesters took in heading out onto the streets to face tear gas and rubber bullets. While it is true that the dynamics of collective action are different in a digital world, we need to move beyond punditry about digital media, simple claims that technology is good or bad for democracy, and a few favored examples of how this can be so.

Prediction: Social media will continue to be vital cogs in any protest movement around the world, even as the targets of those protests learn to become more savvy in using social media in response to them. The days of closing off society to the outside world are numbered as more people use online platforms to communicate with the rest of the world.

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2. Steve Jobs dies, and the tech world mourns.

Love him or hate him, Apple co-founder and visionary Steve Jobs did make a dent in the universe. He was there at the birth of so many innovations, from the personal computer, desktop publishing, the iPod, iPhone and iPad (the holy trinity of gadgets). But one thing he couldn't conquer was cancer, and he finally succumbed and died in October at the age of 56. Not long after that, an in-depth biography of Jobs was published, written by Walter Isaacson, detailing his many triumphs as well as his hard-driving, caustic personality.

While Jobs made a huge contribution to helping salvage the music business with iTunes (while taking his cut), he has had mixed success in helping the news business with mobile subscriptions. And his take on revolutionizing the TV business had yet to be realized at his death. One quote that stands out from Jobs is this one from his Stanford commencement address in 2005:

"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

Prediction: The legend of Steve Jobs and what he accomplished will only grow bigger over the coming years, as his legacy as a media visionary is cemented and the rougher parts of his personality are downplayed.

3. The phone-hacking scandal shutters the News of the World.

Tabloid journalists have always gone to great lengths to get scoops, but nothing compares to the breathtaking deceit at the U.K.'s News of the World, which hacked into the voice-mail messages of celebrities, politicians and even a murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler. What was originally deemed to be a few bad apples turned out to be widespread misdeeds that led to numerous arrests, resignations and firings at News International, the parent company of the tabloid. Even more surprising was the decision by News Corp. honcho Rupert Murdoch to close down the News of the World after 168 years of publication.

The "hackgate" scandal has led to resignations in the British government, at Scotland Yard and at various News Corp. publications (including Dow Jones publisher Les Hinton). Here's how MediaShift correspondent Tristan Stewart-Robertson summed it up:

Ultimately, we have a clash of what my retired philosophy professor father refers to as the "social duty to provide as much information as possible," and the duty of "non-injury to others." So which trumps which? ... The conflicting appetites for information and privacy are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Prediction: The scandal will continue to unearth more villains as government inquiries and lawsuits continue into the new year. More people will use stronger passwords for their voice-mail, and tabloid journalists will need to ratchet back their "black ops" to get scoops.

4. Bubbly IPOs return for a few startups.

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No one would mistake 2011 for 1999, the last year of the dot-com bubble, when IPOs were popping like champagne corks. The initial public offering was the most conspicuous way that investors and startup employees with stock options could cash in on their around-the-clock hard work. But still, some echoes of the late '90s seeped in this year, with successful IPOs for startups such as LinkedIn, Groupon and Zynga. In May, LinkedIn was priced at $45 per share, and jumped 109% to close at $94.25. As a Reuters story explained, the IPO was "evoking memories of the investor love affair with Internet stocks during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s."

The hottest startups of 2011 fell into the SoLoMo category: social, local and mobile. And Groupon was right at the sweet spot of SoLoMo, as the biggest player in the hot "daily deals" market. Despite the fact that Groupon was not profitable and its growth was slowing down, the company's IPO raised $700 million, the biggest public offering since Google. While social gaming startup Zynga raised even more money, $1 billion, its IPO actually ended its first day of trading below its initial price of $10 per share. While a few Internet companies did well going public, most are still waiting in the wings. As USA Today put it, overall IPOs have had a dismal 2011.

Prediction: With so much stock market instability, it will be tough for many companies to go public in the coming months. More likely, the exit for startups will be to get acquired, except for the big fish like Facebook and Twitter, which could have huge IPOs next year.

5. New York Times finds success with metered pay wall; others try their luck.

Why won't people pay a fair price for news content online? So many news orgs simply put up their content for free online that this is what most people expect to pay: nothing. But some exceptions like WSJ.com (leaky wall) and FT.com (metered wall) found success with a mix of free and paid content. Then came the biggest experiment of them all, the metered pay wall at NYTimes.com, where you get 20 free articles per month (or via Google search or social media) and then you have to pay anywhere from $15 per month to $35 per month for full access on the web and with mobile apps. The price seemed steep and the Times was targeting the people who use its content the most. And yet there were exceptions: Car maker Lincoln subsidized free access for many users, and a recent "special offer" gave full digital access for just 99 cents for 8 weeks.

The metered wall has been a smashing success so far for NYTimes.com, garnering 324,000 paying subscribers by the end of the third quarter, just six months after the start of the wall. Plus, the Times has 1.2 million users with full digital access. (Many have print subscriptions that give them digital access.) But where does that leave the other, smaller papers that are trying out pay walls? Gannett newspapers, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Boston Globe all have begun testing pay strategies and it's unclear if they will be as successful as the Times. But as PaidContent's Staci Kramer wrote in a year-end review, "2011 is the hands-down winner when it comes to people paying for digital content. The numbers aren't all in yet and some of it will be hard to quantify given the lack of complete transparency but it's clear that more people are willing to pay for digital access to music, news, movies, TV, games, books and magazines."

Prediction: More online newspapers will try to charge for their content with mixed success. Not everyone has the strong brand (and followers) of the New York Times, and many folks are happy to try out other free sites for news if they are forced to pay too much.

6. The battle over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in Congress.

No one likes piracy, but the two bills in Congress to fight online piracy, SOPA and PIPA, are seen as flawed and overreaching by various tech companies and online pundits. The two bills are supported by most big media companies, music publishers and Hollywood, and are opposed by big tech and online companies and organizations.

While Congress expected to pass some version of these two bills into law with little friction, online organizers have wreaked havoc with political protests that haven't been seen at this depth before. Tumblr created a slick "Call Congress" tool that popped up on its home page, and 6,000 websites participated in an online protest against what they considered to be possible censorship under the new law, with 1 million emails sent to members of Congress. As Congress adjourns for its holiday recess, the fight continues, with so many people pulling their domains from Go Daddy (a supporter of SOPA), that the domain company changed course and withdrew support for the bill.

Prediction: The bills will still likely make it through Congress in some form, but if the online protests continue apace, there might well be amendments to make the bills less overreaching when it comes to piracy enforcement.

7. Kindle Fire tablet is an affordable alternative to iPad.

Here come the low-cost Android tablets. While Apple has done such a good job with its iPad tablet in dominating the market, there was still an opening for a lower-cost, smaller tablet to steal away market share. And this Christmas season, Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet ($199) and to a lesser extent the Nook Tablet ($250) have stolen Apple's thunder with cheaper alternatives. Some leaked data to Cult of Android showed that the Fire was racking up 50,000 pre-orders per day, which could mean 2.5 million sales before it even went on sale Nov. 15!

Those are impressive numbers for Amazon, which has created quite the backlash for its bullying in the book industry, becoming a book publisher on its own and sending people as spies into bookstores to compare prices. And yet, Apple will still continue to dominate tablet sales this holiday season, according to researchers at IDC, with the Kindle and Nook tablet sales coming at the expense of higher-priced Android tablets. "I fully expect Apple to have its best-ever quarter in 4Q11," IDC's Tom Mainelli told the Washington Post, "and in 2012 I think we'll see Apple's product begin to gain more traction outside of the consumer market, specifically with enterprise and education markets."

Prediction: Apple will have to work harder at keeping its dominant lead in tablets, and will need to consider selling a cheaper, smaller tablet to compete on the low end. While the Kindle Fire will be popular as a cheap alternative, it will need to offer more than a closed Amazon environment to satisfy gadget geeks.

8. Netflix stumbles with huge price hike, poor Qwikster idea.

2011 was another strong year for people cutting the cord to cable and satellite TV. The cable industry finally acknowledged there was a slight drop-off in subscriptions, and for the first time U.S. households with TV sets declined. But one reason people were willing to cut the cord was the proliferation of "over the top" streaming TV services such as Netflix and Hulu. But after years of growth and profits, Netflix stumbled badly in 2011. The company announced it was unbundling its DVD-by-mail service and charging higher rates for DVDs and for streaming, with a spin-off company for DVDs called Qwikster.

Those moves were largely panned by pundits, and Netflix started bleeding customers, with 800,000 of them leaving the service by the end of the third quarter. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had to apologize to customers in a blog post and in a video address:

Prediction: Netflix will need a two-pronged strategy to gain back customers: aggressive pricing and promotions; better selection of streaming content. It might be tough to pull it off, but without doing anything, Netflix will find a very difficult road ahead.

9. Publishers rebel against Apple with HTML5 web apps.

Apple could only push publishers so far. While the tech giant came hat in hand to media companies promising to prop up the news business with digital subscriptions for the iPad, its terms were onerous: a 30% cut of all revenues; Apple keeps the data on customers; no links to subscriptions outside of Apple's App Store from within apps. Some publishers decided that enough was enough, and created "web apps" that worked on the iPad without going through Apple and its App Store. The most prominent web app came from FT.com, which decided to create its own HTML5 app to go around Apple's control.

When I spoke to FT.com's managing director, Rob Grimshaw, he shared these figures about their success:

> 20% of all page views for FT.com come from mobile devices
> 30% of all page views seen by paid subscribers to FT.com are on mobile devices

> More than 1 million downloads for the FT apps for iPhone and iPad

> More than 500,000 visits to the web app over the past 3 months

> 15% to 20% of new paid subscribers come from mobile devices

Apple eventually blinked and set better terms for publishers, allowing them to sell subscriptions at discounted prices. However, Apple still gets a huge 30% cut and keeps the customer data.

Prediction: More publishers will watch FT.com and others' web apps very closely, and will consider ways to get around Apple's walled garden.

10. Rise of Google+ as an alternative to Facebook, Twitter.

After several false starts (including Google Buzz, Orkut, Wave), Google finally got social networking right with its Google+ network launch in 2011. While the service quickly brought on millions of new users and was integrated tightly into Google search results and Gmail, some folks were unimpressed and felt like it was a ghost town because their friends remained entrenched on Facebook.

So what was the big deal with Google+? The service let people set up "Circles" so that status updates could be sent to discrete groups, and the "Hangouts" let you do group video chat like never before. One enterprising TV station in Columbia, Mo., even started putting Google+ Hangouts on the air. My experience was typical for the more plugged-in tech media crowd: Within a couple months on Google+, I had more people following me there than on Twitter, where I'd been active since 2008.

Prediction: Google+ will continue to be an attractive option for interactivity and higher level conversations among the more tech-insider crowd, but most people will continue their presence on Twitter and Facebook.

Honorable Mentions

Here are some other stories that didn't quite make the cut but are worth mentioning:

> Digital First takes over newspapers at the Journal Register Co. and Media News, and launches an investment company for digital news innovation.

> AOL buys Huffington Post and TechCrunch, and TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington is eventually pushed out after trying to run both TechCrunch and a new VC fund.

> #OccupyWallStreet organizes hundreds of protests around the U.S. and world to demand that money is removed from politics.

> News aggregators proliferate, with the rise of Flipboard, Zite (bought by CNN), Trove, Livestand, News.me and many more.

What do you think? What media stories were the biggest ones this year? Did we miss any key ones? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit. and Circle him on Google+

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September 16 2011

16:30

Mediatwits #20: Newspaper Special: Boston Globe Pay Wall; Guardian U.S.; Philly Tablet

CUNY-J LOGO.jpg

The Mediatwits podcast is sponsored by the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, which offers an intensive, cutting edge, three semester Master of Arts in Journalism; a unique one semester Advanced Certificate in Entrepreneurial Journalism; and the CUNY J-Camp series of Continuing Professional Development workshops focused on emerging trends and skill sets in the industry.

Welcome to the 20th episode of "The Mediatwits," the weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser and Rafat Ali, the one and only founder of PaidContent. This week is a special edition on newspapers, newspapers and more newspapers. First up, the Boston Globe launched its new pay-walled site, BostonGlobe.com, which is free for print subscribers but costs $3.99 per week for non-print subscribers. The old Boston.com site will look more cluttered and have less content from the paper. The special guest this week is Chris Mayer, publisher of the Globe, who talks about why they went with a two-site strategy, and how people will still be able to see Globe content if they come from social media or search links.

Next up is the move by the U.K. newspaper the Guardian, with its third attempt to take on the American market. The paper launched a new site, GuardianNews.com, helmed by Janine Gibson, and will be moving over star reporter Nick Davies as well as new hire Ana Marie Cox. Can they finally get a foothold in the States? And finally the Philadelphia newspapers and Philly.com are subsidizing an Android tablet for subscribers at $99 with a two-year subscription contract. Will people take up their offer?

Check it out!

mediatwits20.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Intro

1:40: Update on Michael Arrington leaving TechCrunch

3:10: Big conflicts of interest at TechCrunch Disrupt

4:10: Rafat likes "retro" feel of print NY Times

5:15: Rundown of topics on the show

BostonGlobe.com pay wall

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7:20: Rafat likes clean look of BostonGlobe.com

8:35: Special guest Chris Mayer, publisher of the Boston Globe

10:30: The split between two groups of Globe readers

15:40: Mayer: Readers appreciate advertising, as long as it's not disruptive

18:20: Will BostonGlobe.com do a special app or stay out of App Store?

21:10: The Globe's marketing push for its paid content

23:30: BostonGlobe.com will allow free reads of stories via social media and search without limits

25:45: Mark wonders if having two sites will really hurt the Globe

Guardian launches new U.S. site

26:20: Guardian moves Nick Davies stateside and hires Ana Marie Cox

28:20: Rafat impressed that they're hiring 20 to 30 people

Philadelphia papers subsidize Android tablets

30:35: Get a $99 tablet if you subscribe for two years at $9.99 per month

32:40: Allows many possible advertising deals

34:45: Why we're still watching moves by newspaper companies

More Reading

Four Observations (and Lots of Questions) on the Boston Globe's Lovely New Paywalled Site at Nieman Journalism Lab

Boston Globe pioneers double website strategy as it erects paywall at the Guardian

Judgement Day: Does the Boston Globe's paywall site have a chance in hell? at the Boston Phoenix

BostonGlobe.com, the pay site, now free until Oct. 1

The Guardian Launches a U.S. Homepage with a Special American U.R.L. at New York Observer

Nick Davies, Ana Marie Cox Join Guardian's New U.S. Operation at Capital New York

The Guardian Launches in America at the Next Web

GuardianNews.com, the new U.S. site

Philly papers offering subscribers $99 Android tablet at CNET

Sound Familiar? Philadelphia Newspapers Subsidize A Tablet To Sell You A Subscription at Wired

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Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit. and Circle him on Google+

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October 05 2010

10:42

TheMediaBriefing: What news publishers can learn from supermarkets

Patrick Smith maps out “the [Tesco] Clubcard model for news”:

To stretch analogy out to news, what’s for sale on your shelves? The kind of thing you think consumers are after, or what you know they want to buy? In a print age there is only hope and focus grouping: the call is made by the editor and publisher each day what goes into the paper both editorially and commercially, largely based on flimsy research and an instinctive understanding of a title’s brand.

Full post on TheMediaBriefing at this link…Similar Posts:



September 23 2010

10:23

E&P: Knight Foundation to help fund paywalls for non-profit news sites

Paywall technology venture Journalism Online will see its Press+ system introduced to non-profit news sites in the US as part of a deal with the Knight Foundation.

The first 10 sites that receive grants from the Foundation will not have to share revenue from the system with Journalism Online for the first year. Hyperlocal professional news site the New Haven Independent is the first to sign up.

Full story on E&P at this link…Similar Posts:



August 04 2010

10:10

Murdoch hails iPad as ‘perfect platform’

Rupert Murdoch is bullish about the role that the iPad and tablet computers will play in the future of publishing and journalism. According to a report by the Australian, Murdoch told an industry event this week in Sydney that tablet computers were “a perfect platform for our content”.

Murdoch added that subscriber levels to the newly paywalled Times website were “strong”:

It’s going to be a success. Subscriber levels are strong. We are witnessing the start of a new business model for the internet. The argument that information wants to be free is only said by those who want it for free.

Full story on the Australian at this link…Similar Posts:



July 12 2010

15:36

Journalism Online paid content system gets first user with obits paywall

Paid content system Journalism Online has its first user, reports Poynter. Lancaster Online, website for the Intelligencer Journal and Lancaster New Era titles in the US, will use the micropayments platform to paywall its obituaries from today.

Readers outside of Lancaster County will be free to view up to seven obits, after which they will have to pay $1.99 a month or $19.99 for an annual subscription.

Journalism Online was set up by former US newspaper executives Steve Brill, Gordon Crovitz and Leo Hindery in June last year and received investment from News Corp last month.

Lancaster Online’s obituary pay scheme would “not amount to enough to reverse the fortunes of our newsroom, in and of itself”, admits the site’s editor of content development Ernie Schreiber. “But it might be a model for the next steps in how we meter other content (…) And it might pay for a few reporters.”

Poynter’s Bill Mitchell criticises certain elements of the move, including the fact that Lancaster Online is simply moving established content behind a paywall and not offering anything new to incentivise would-be customers:

One area where Lancaster falls short: providing customers with significant new value to persuade them to spend money today for something they got yesterday for free. How many more obit subscriptions might LancasterOnline sell, in other words, if it were to bundle customized obit newsletters as part of its monthly or annual fee?

Research suggests however that there is a healthy market for obituaries within the Lancaster Online readership. According to Schreiber, more than five per cent of the 47.4 million pages viewed the previous year were obituaries, and 100,000 readers outside of the county accessed an obituary page over that year.

Journalism Online’s Adam Crovitz said Lancaster’s launch of the Journalism Online system will be followed by “many other launches over the summer”.

He claimed that the most popular “will be metered access to a website as a whole rather than a focus on a particular area of content”.

Full story at this link…Similar Posts:



July 09 2010

10:12

Daily Intel: Lessons for other publishers from the Times paywall

With the New York Times expected to introduce paid access to its website from 2011, the Daily Intel looks at what lessons publishers can learn from the implementation of the UK Times’ paywall, including:

  • make it RSS-friendly;
  • make the price suprisingly low;
  • mind your talent;
  • and deal with the payment transaction early on.

Full post at this link…

Related listening: Podcast from the Association of Online Publishers event on paywalls and diversifying revenue streams with the Times’ assistant editor and head of online, Tom Whitwell.Similar Posts:



July 08 2010

11:29

Martin Belam: Many Times readers might give up on newspaper websites altogether

The Times have always acknowledged that the paywall would mean a drop in traffic. They accept that many former visitors to the site will not be prepared to pay.

But where will they go instead? Will they break their readership loyalities?

The point is taken up by Martin Belam, information architect for the Guardian.co.uk, who says we cannot assume that readers will simply defect to another online newspaper.

Writing on his blog, Belam says to assume so would be to “view our industry through the prism of the newsagent”.

The web isn’t a newsagent. It is rather more like the table in a library with newspapers scattered across it, ready to be picked up and browsed at will.

And unlike the newsagent, that library table is no longer confined to publications ‘registered with the Post Office as a newspaper’.

Many Times readers, he adds, “might just give up on all newspapers websites”.

See the full post here…Similar Posts:



July 07 2010

16:22

MediaMemo: Time Inc. on paywall plans and print/iPad-only content

As reported by Nieman Journalism Lab, Reuters blogger Felix Salmon noticed late last month that a Time Magazine story he had followed a link to online wasn’t there, instead there was this message:

To read TIME Magazine in its entirety, subscribe or download the issue on the iPad.

The next morning the story reappeared in its entirety.

Yesterday reporters at Nieman noticed that “nearly every major article” on Time Magazine’s website was no longer available in full:

Check out the current issue of Time Magazine at Time.com. Click around. Notice anything? On almost every story that comes from the magazine, there’s this phrase: “The following is an abridged version of an article that appears in the July 12, 2010 print and iPad editions of TIME.”

This afternoon MediaMemo has confirmation from parent company Time Inc. that there are title-by-title paywall plans and content across its publications will increasingly be print and iPad only. Spokesman Dawn Bridges outlines the publisher’s policy:

We’ve said for awhile that increasingly we’ll move content from the print (and now iPad) versions of our titles off of the web. With People, we haven’t had hardly any content [SIC] from the magazine on the web for a long time. Our strategy is to use the web for breaking news and ‘commodity’ type of news; (news events of any type, stock prices, sports scores) and keep (most of) the features and longer analysis for the print publication and iPad versions.

Full story at this link…Similar Posts:



July 02 2010

14:21

US newspaper publisher Gannett conducting ‘small-scale’ paywall tests

The Times finally took the paywall plunge today, but US newspaper giant Gannett has stopped short at dipping its toes.

The publisher is conducting a “small-scale test” by putting subscription services around three of its local titles, reports Poynter Online. The Tallahassee Democrat, Greenville (S.C.) News and (St. George, Utah) Spectrum will charge $9.95 a month for online-only access, fees for web-and-print bundles will vary.

Kate Marymont, vice president of news, says the company weighed the risks before choosing three titles: “We didn’t want to start at our very largest properties.”

According to vice-president of corporate communications Robin Pence, the tests will help the company “develop a long term strategy for paid content”.

Full story at this link…Similar Posts:



May 25 2010

16:40

Comment: Reaction to the new Times and Sunday Times websites

Having had a day to “browse and snack” on the new Sunday Times and Times websites, what’s the feedback so far? What’s the reaction to the new editorial layout, multimedia changes and approach to journalism behind a paywall?

Starting with those bloggers who were given a sneak preview of the sites the night before they went live:

Malcolm Coles on the Times:

Without the need to chase search engine traffic or page views for advertisers, the idea of covering fewer stories but in a better way sounds appealing (…) an article, for instance, with an information graphic and tabs to let you explore the history and different aspects of the story without leaving the page. This package of content is brilliant – it works much better as an experience than lists of related articles or auto-generated tag pages.

But, asks Coles, shouldn’t readers be allowed to subscribe to just one site with completely distinct sections and topics?

It strikes me that there is either sufficient distinction in the audience for the two brands that you let users subscribe to just one site; or the audiences cross over so much that you combine the two sites in one and think about what makes most sense from the user’s point of view.

Forcing people to subscribe to both sites but keeping them entirely separate, with no cross-linking, seems a bit odd.

Adam Westbrook on the experience of reading the Times and Sunday Times online:

Well, at first impressions I am not bowled over: black text on a white screen, size 12, serif font – just like every other news website out there (and even this blog!). A web page can be any colour and fully dynamic – a concept no major newsroom is yet to grasp.

Rory Cellan-Jones on how a smaller audience might offer a more engaged readership:

[T]he company is convinced that advertisers will find the smaller audience of committed readers more attractive than the 21 million promiscuous passers-by who flit through the free Times Online site each month at present. While there’s been plenty of sniping from the sidelines by News International’s rivals, I suspect they are all glad that someone is at least testing the waters.

Tim Fenton:

It’s a slick package, although whether well-bundled, good content is enough of a differentiator from everything on Google News remains to be seen. For me, the biggest surprise is that the Times is not planning a splashy ad campaign to launch the paywall – it is relying chiefly on promotion in the newspaper.

It’s a low-key – and very analogue – start to one of the biggest experiments in modern digital media.

Of those reviewing the sites today, TechCrunch Europe expands on concerns raised that the papers’ journalists will miss out on social media conversation around their work, with thoughts on what the paywall means for mobile and ecommerce developments:

I don’t know The Times’ development roadmap, but if it does not have an API for its content (I presume it won’t since the whole of the new sites will be paywalled and invisible to search engines) then there will be no opportunity to catch the Third Wave of social or indeed of mobile or commerce. The Times cannot possibly come up with all the ideas which will happen in the Third Wave, which is why third-party developers will be so important.

Will the Times and Sunday Times be taking themselves out of the social media conversation with paywalls that redirect deep links to a generic login page? (Interesting to note findings from a Pew Research Center study, which report that bloggers will share more links and stories produced by mainstream news organisations, Twitterers less so, suggesting there’s is still a reliance of the social media news world on traditional news outlets. Interesting also – digital director of Mirror Group Matt Kelly’s remarks last week about the importance of honing news sites to niches that their readers identify as the values of that particular paper or brand.)

Adam Tinworth provides food for thought on the issue with his post on the potential impact of a subscription wall on a site’s community:

People sharing what they think will be identifiable, and they will have paid an entrance fee to get in there. This is, in fact, a community model, just one that differs from the wide, inter-connected community model we’re used to on the open web.

I recall Lee Bryant saying at last year’s Social Media Influence conference that sometimes its the wall that defines the community. And that maxim will be tested on these sites.

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January 27 2010

10:12

January 22 2010

15:23

Rob Grimshaw on the paywall backlash

FT.com managing director Rob Grimshaw, regular spokesperson for the paid-for content model,  has a real problem with the language used by critics of the paywall, he told Journalism.co.uk yesterday.

“It’s always put into pejorative terms,” he said. “It doesn’t happen to any other product: you don’t talk about restaurants giving people a bad user experience by giving them a bill at the end of it.”

“It’s understood that something has been produced and it needs to be paid for; somehow with news content it has become a totally different argument,” he said.

It is almost regarded as a “sort of a criminal act to have the temerity to charge for some of our products,” Grimshaw added. “It’s something that we need to get away from.”

“We’re not a charity, we’re a company with shareholders: there’s nothing free about the information we produce – our editorial operation costs millions of pounds to run and we don’t see it’s odd to put a price on it. In fact, it’s probably the only way to run a reasonable business.”

Needless to say, he supports the NYT’s newly announced FT-style subscription model, scheduled for 2011: “Publishers need to get themselves out the hole and be a bit more bold and brassy,” he said.

Publishers shouldn’t, he added, be afraid to say their content has got a value. While he admitted the FT has a niche and affluent reader base for its subscriber model, he believes general news sites can do it as well.

“Our sense [is that] if other publishers do go for it, they will be able to build successful models.”

FT.com is not without its free content rivals, he said: “[W]e’re not short of competition – for every topic we cover on FT.com you can find a list of sites as long as your arm.”

“There are parallels between what we’re doing and what general news publishers will have to do as well. For me, the big thing is quality. It all comes back to quality. Whether it’s niche [or not] it’s got to be good”.

General news sites have the capability, brand and long heritage with which to build better quality sites, Grimshaw argued. They can be ‘far more compelling than one man blogging in a room,’ he said.

“There are numerous ways that publishers can create sites which people are prepared to pay for because they are better than anything else that’s out there.”

“I don’t see that the publishers are going to have trouble to get their users to pay for content.”

Grimshaw’s firm belief, as he has said before, is that newspapers cannot  live by advertising alone.

Citing IAB figures from last year (available at this link), he said it was paid-for search that took “by far” the bulk of the money: around 62 per cent; with 19 per cent to classified; and only 18 per cent to online advertising spend.

“It seems everybody in the whole world is trying to float their business on that [advertising model]. It’s just not big enough for every one of those businesses  (…) so something is going to have to give.”

“Either publishers are going to find themselves in serious difficulties, or they’re going to have to come up with another way of making money.”

FT.com’s forthcoming content plans include a new Blackberry app, “one day pass” subscriptions, and video for iPhone. Read more about it on our main site.

Similar Posts:



10:46
10:09

Felix Salmon: ‘Online subscription revenues won’t make newspapers profitable again’

Felix Salmon responds to John Gapper’s Financial Times column Charge for news or bleed red ink, in which Gapper suggests that while only a small number of New York Times readers may sign up for subscriptions under its forthcoming charging model, this would provide a significant revenue boost.

Salmon goes ‘through the numbers’ and writes:

With the New York Times Company making the best part of $300 million a year from online advertising, it’s hard to see that the extra revenue boost would really be worth it.

The point here is that with the powerhouse NYTimes.com site front and center, the New York Times Company as a whole is a major online media player, serving up billions of high-prestige page views and building strong relationships with every major online advertiser and media buyer in the country. Even under the most optimistic scenario, a majority of the NYT’s loyal readers will desert it when it moves to a paywall. And with those readers gone, media buyers are by no means guaranteed to stick around.

Full story at this link….

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