Gannett To Put 80 Of Its Newspapers Behind Pay Walls

Led by the likes of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, the rest of the newspaper industry is gradually attempting an experiment to charge readers for stuff it’s always given away for free. Newspaper giant Gannett revealed that it’s sticking 80 of its community newspapers’ websites behind pay walls. USA Today web content will remain free for now.

Forbes reports the Gannett papers will loosely follow the Times model, letting users view between five and 15 articles for free each month before cutting them off and telling them to pay up. Gannett is betting that the move will make it $100 million more in subscription revenue per year.

Papers that move to the pay wall model are assuming enough freeloaders will start paying up to offset losses in readership that will sting advertising revenue. The move increases the pressure on overworked staffs that have been gutted through years of downsizing, but also allows the potential for papers to reap more revenue that they can reinvest, ideally upping their staffs back up to healthier levels. As a fan of newspapers — in no small part due to the fact that I work a day job at one of them — I sure hope executives know what they’re doing here.

Gannett Building Paywalls Around All Its Papers Except USA Today [Forbes]

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  1. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    “Papers that move to the pay wall model are assuming enough freeloaders will start paying up to offset losses in readership that will sting advertising revenue.”

    Aye, there’s the rub.

    • MeowMaximus says:

      This is why the mainstream media, including newspapers, has become irrelevant. Newspapers are dying, and rightfully so. My local paper is online got free,and actually has interesting articles, but I would NOT pay to read it.

      • Jawaka says:

        Well, newspapers are dying because up until recently people were able to get all the information that they used to pay for in a newspaper for free from from the newspaper’s website. People realized that it didn’t make sense to pay for something that they were able to get for free. Now the newspapers are moving to not give that information away for free any more.

        Of course there will always be other options for state and world news however many people would turn to local newspapers and their websites for local news and other stories that the larger media companies wouldn’t bother with.

  2. MMD says:

    I only read my local rag occasionally, and only because it’s free online. I don’t anticipate paying to read it if it’s part of this plan…

  3. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    All the Gannett papers in the northeast are pretty much shadows of what they were only a few years ago. They’ve eviscerated news staff and started to consolidate editing in regional centers witrh predictable results. It’s really too bad, because at one time in many places they pretty much dominated local news with good, solid reporting. The paywall would be OK if they drastically improved their quality. Otherwise – no dice.

    • Derigiberble says:

      The local Gannett newspaper is the same way. Very rarely is there any in depth reporting and because of that the local TV news pretty much covers everything they do. Anything not covered by TV gets picked up by the local alternative newspapers and normally reported on in more useful detail.

    • Cor Aquilonis says:

      BIngo. Before they can charge people, they have to make it something worth buying; and until their “reporting” consists of something more than reprinting a press release, it won’t be worth buying.

  4. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Also, what’s with the green stain on the kitteh? Did he just get tattooed?

  5. newmie says:

    I used to read the New York Times online. But now, they want such a high price to do so that I cannot afford to. I would cost several hundred dollars a year. I am on SS. I cannot pay that.

    SO, now it appears that even the news is to be reserved for people with money, pretty much like everything else in this mean spirited country.

    • HowardRoarksTSquare says:

      Can you go to a library and read the paper?

      You need to understand the costs associated with running a company. Publications are not cheap and if you can’t afford the subscription to read the paper – there are alternatives like not reading the paper

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      Ummmm… Google ‘NYT PAYWALL COOKIES’

    • fsnuffer says:

      Give me a break! Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

    • damageddude says:

      I think it is something like $20 a month for online access. If you can’t afford that, do what others have done in the past — go to the library and read the hard copy (assuming your library subscribes).

    • atthec44 says:

      You should move to Greece. Maybe they’ll throw in a free New York Times subscription.

    • who? says:

      It’s $3.95/week ($195/year) at full price, but if you’re paying attention, they run a lot of specials. Their paywall is also pretty easily breached if you know how to delete cookies.

      That said, what did you do before everything was online? The NYT is probably the only paper I would pay money for online access to. The WSJ has turned into a right wing piece of Rupert Murdoch trash, and most of the rest just have a smattering of local articles and reprints of AP articles.

    • George4478 says:

      >>SO, now it appears that even the news is to be reserved for people with money

      WHOOP-WHOOP. The hyperbole alert klaxon is sounding…..WHOOP-WHOOP

    • Ducatisti says:

      Oh no, the awful mean-spirited country, where businesses charge people for the products they manufacture. Horrible!

  6. PHRoG says:

    Our local newspaper threw up a Pay Wall last year. I promptly canceled my subscription even though it was free to subscribers. In my opinion, it’s nothing more than a money-grab.

    If your going to charge for your content, take down the ads that are supposed to be paying for it!

    Until then…I’ll just keep telling everyone I meet about Greasemonkey! ;)

  7. Cat says:

    I don’t know what Gannett is going to do when my dad dies. I’m pretty sure dad’s the Rochester D&C’s only remaining subscriber for the printed edition. He and mom refuse to get online.

    • kooly says:

      I buy the D&C on Sundays just for the coupons.
      If I want news, there are 4 local TV stations with great websites.
      But I will miss the online Obits if they put the D&C behind a paywall.

  8. Tim says:

    I’m interested to see if it’s working. The first round of experimenters should be able to tell now if it was a good idea or not. I would assume that since they haven’t gone back on their decisions, it’s turning out to make financial sense.

    My podunk hometown paper recently put up a paywall. Thing is, with only about four original stories each day, one or two of which I’d actually care about, I doubt it’s worth $6.99. But hey, if it makes sense financially, I guess it makes sense.

    • IGetsAnOpinion says:

      We must be reading the same podunk newspaper. Did they recently go to only 3 days a week delivery too from 5?

      • Tim says:

        Not that I know of, though I don’t get the print edition (I don’t live there anymore). Maybe the same ownership though.

  9. speaky2k says:

    My local paper went behind a pay wall several months ago, and even paying home delivery customers need a subscription after viewing 10 articles. However the way they implemented the pay wall is not very efficient for them, but is good for the customer. If you have viewed 10 or more articles in a month the page still loads, but a pop-up comes up that on close takes you back to the main page. If you have a specific pop-up/ad blocker (I won’t say which one here in public) it won’t allow that pop-up to load on the page so you can continue to read every article.

    • HowardRoarksTSquare says:

      Or if you want to steal from them you could just disable java-script to prevent the re-routing to the homepage.

  10. techstar25 says:

    Apparently it started today. I just went to Floridatoday.com and clicked an article. A pop-up says I have “14 free articles left – subscribe now”. This particular local paper has been slowly but surely filling up with AP stories and has less and less local news. What’s the point of a local paper if it’s all AP stores? There is no way they earn an extra $100 million, but advertising revenue WILL plummet.

    • Pixilox the Lock says:

      I got that too when I went to read a story. The site is free if you are a subscriber but it still sucks that they want you to pay for not much substance. I think I’d rather pay for either the NYT or WSJ.

    • xspook says:

      They also caved to corporate about having to use your FB account to comment on the stories. Prior to this, it was common to have hundreds of comments on the stories – now? 3 if you’re lucky.

      Their excuse? To maintain civility in the comments. Yeah; civility is the first thing I think of with Facebook.

      Their demise is greatly accelerating.

      • drjayphd says:

        You’d be surprised. The paper I work for went from moderated comments to Disqus, and while comment volume dropped, comment quality went through the roof. It seems having to actually put a name to your words (it doesn’t even have to be your OWN name, as you can use Disqus, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo or OpenID to log in and comment) only dissuades the trolls. Since the switch, though, I’ve noticed the point of view of comments swung from right to left. Before, any story I wrote about the local school system (and if PsiCop still comes here, they know exactly what I mean) got tons of comments bashing the board, but since moving to Disqus, the majority of comments on those stories went pro-school board and anti-Republican Selectmen.

  11. damageddude says:

    What Gannet forgets is that the NY Times, Wall St. Journal and the like have is in depth content that people will pay for. I stopped buying the Asbury Park Press (our local Gannet paper) in print years ago because it became mostly, so it seemed, AP briefs. I knew something was wrong when I finished reading my paper before the bus even got onto the Garden State Pkwy (about 20 min from the time I boarded the bus). And I believe this has become more so as they have reduced newsroom staff.

    I rarely see timely coverage on the APP website regarding my immediate area. Occasionally they break a major statewide story but that seems less frequent then it used to be. As the communities the APP covers also gets the weekly free paper from a competitor and online sources I will not even miss their website.

  12. humphrmi says:

    News papers are missing the point. It’s not the evil internet that is sapping their revenue. It’s that there are a gazillion other ways to get your news for free.

    Back before news papers started losing money, you got your morning news from a paper and your evening news from the T.V. For the last twenty years, morning news shows have been growing in popularity. Now there are tons of morning news shows, and most of those stream on the internet.

    This is a battle that the papers aren’t going to win. If this is their plan to survive, they will continue to lose money.

    • Tim says:

      The difference here is that Gannett papers are in small cities and towns. There’s almost no competition, and if there is, it might be a few TV stations or a radio station. The TV stations suck royal ass at reporting news (yes, I’m a print journalist), and viewers rarely pay all that much attention to it. And who listens to radio?

      Honestly, I think it could work. I’ve interned at a few small city/town papers (including a Gannett one), and they’re really the only ones doing local news in the area. If people want local news, there’s a good chance they’ll pay, I think.

      • Not Given says:

        I have found I really don’t miss knowing what happens in this small town. The papers got completely useless years ago when both started having them printed offsite after the last decent editor left. Almost every article has serious formatting errors, misplaced lines, parts of articles incuded in the middle of other articles. All 6-8 pages.

  13. Shorebreak says:

    The casino players like the idea. Gannett shares rose 5 percent on the announcement.

  14. ssm316 says:

    Well i’m gonna stop reading their papers

  15. atthec44 says:

    My local newspaper did this a few weeks ago.

    I stopped visiting their website a few weeks ago.

  16. mysterydate98 says:

    The local paper did that here a few months ago as well. I viewed their site many times daily to keep up with the many blogs I enjoyed reading that discussed local news, entertainment and restaurants. They threw up the pay wall and no I no longer visit. I wonder how many views those blogs are getting these days? I bet their readership has gone WAY down. It’s a shame.

  17. Lyn Torden says:

    Newspaper executives come from a world where they would take revenues from both the advertising side, and the reader side. So they think that is how it should be done online.

    TV station executives come from a world where they would take revenues from the advertising side alone. So they think that is how it should be done online.

    Guess whose thinking will attract the most readers. I haven’t seen a TV station put up a paywall in front of their news, yet.

    • KyBash says:

      That was the old model for TV.

      I don’t know the exact percentage, but I’m confident most people now watch their local channels on cable or satellite, which has to pay a carriage fee.

      • NeverLetMeDown says:

        About 90% of TV households in the US watch via cable or satellite. The affiliate fees that the cable and satellite companies pay to the broadcasters are about 1/3 of broadcaster revenues (ads are the other 2/3). For cable networks (ESPN, TNT, FX, etc.), revenue is about 60% affiliate fees, 40% advertising.

  18. Lyn Torden says:
  19. RickinStHelen says:

    I read the Green Bay Press Gazette’s Packers coverage online. It is good, but not enough to pay the subscription fee for it. If I have to do that, I’ll just stick to other places that give football information away for free (like PFT). I also read my hometown newspaper, but I haven’t lived there since 1983. If it goes paywall, I will stop. I can keep up with local news through my friends on Facebook, so really there is no need to subscribe. If the local high school goes to state, a friend dies, or something big happens, it will be posted on a friends wall. I really don’t care about the local garden club, and am not going to subscribe to the paper for those types of articles. I am sure there are a lot of folks like me who won’t keep up with the papers if it is paywall, when we don’t live there anymore.

    • Not Given says:

      Sometimes you can find Facebook pages for local news or gossip. Mom’s town has a page where the citizens go to gossip about the dirty political dealings or trash pickup or whatever. Look for pages the local people like or friends of friends to find those if the search doesn’t turn them up.

  20. Riroon13 says:

    I worked in the sports department at a ‘community paper’ owned by the New York Times a little over a decade ago. We had a five-man sports staff, and 4 pages a day/ 8 on Sundays. (Oh, and we had an award-winning internet presence).

    Gannett came and bought out the paper, along with six others in our state.

    Today, there IS NO sports staff. Our ‘sister paper’ 40 minutes away is supposed to be handling those duties. Sports is one page, mostly AP except for when Sister Paper calls a coach to get a description of a game (no photos). In fact, the ENTIRE PAPER on most days is four pages.

    As our printing press was sold off, our ‘sister paper’ does those duties, also — meaning the local paper had an unbearable early bedtime of 6pm, way before council meetings, school board meetings, prep games were finished. The paper is usually filled up with a hodgepodge of ‘local content’ from the other Gannett regional papers in the group, some from cities 200 miles away. And that is our new ‘local’ content.

    Worse, none of the staff is from the the town and none of the management is from the state. There’s no stake in the community, just stepping stones to other jobs in other states.

  21. Big Dave says:

    My local Gannett paper just started this. You get 5 free articles a day, then you get blocked unless you subscribe. It’s a rag, but as it’s the only local paper, and the state paper of record, we have no choice but to read it. To get around this, I use a Tor browser. Since Tor hides my true IP, when I hit my limit, I log out and log in again, and the newspaper server doesn’t recognize me, as it appears I am coming from a different IP. FAIL Gannett!

  22. dpeters11 says:

    We’ll be affected by this as well. If the online subscription were cheap, I might have considered it. But it’s $3 less than the dead tree version. That’s too much.

    I’ll likely find a workaround, like using Tor as mentioned.

  23. oldgraygeek says:

    We get our Gannett local, the Wilmington (DE) News-Journal, in the dead tree edition, which gets us access through its new paywall.
    If not for that, we wouldn’t bother with their Web site, because it truly sucks. It sucks even worse now, as the paywall causes some browsers to lock up and makes others extremely slow.

  24. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    Our local paper (owned by Media News Group) went the paywall route but it’s slow loading. I’m quick enough to Print Screen before the javascript pop up blocks it. I could block popups but don’t go there often enough.

  25. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Gannett owns our local paper. I don’t usually read it except for the paper Sunday edition (flyers). I’ve found that most of the content that’s in the paper is recycled from stuff I already read elsewhere on the web. So too bad, Gannett. You’re not hurting me one bit.

  26. Sunflower1970 says:

    The newspaper I work at will be going behind a paywall later this year. I’m terrified of the calls I’m going to get about this…

    It’s a catch 22 because right now I don’t think our website worth paying for, but we need to do something.

    The only website I’ve been impressed with is the Boston Globe. I personally think the design they did makes it very readable and is worth paying for. (www.bostonglobe.com) It’s something other newspaper sites need to emulate

    • Tim says:

      Looove bostonglobe.com. I wouldn’t pay for it though, since I don’t live there.

      So make your website worth paying for. Updates throughout the day, interactivity, something that adds value.

      • Sunflower1970 says:

        I totally agree. Only thing is management isn’t interested in doing anything to make it better. They want to wall it all up, and keep it exactly as it is. And maaaaaybe waaay off in the future they’ll add some cool content. And it doesn’t matter how often we tell them they need to do something to make it worthwhile. They don’t listen.

  27. JMH says:

    “Led by the likes of The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, the rest of the newspaper industry is gradually attempting an experiment to charge readers for stuff it’s always given away for free.”

    You have a strange definition of “always”. There was this time called “before the Internet” when people didn’t expect to get something of value (the value of a newspaper is in the content, not the actual dead trees) for free.

  28. GeekChicCanuck says:

    Just another reason for me to be glad my local library subscribes to online databases that have the vast majority of North American newspapers (and hundreds of foreign ones) included in their content. I’ve been reading the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and my local paper online via the library for years now.

    • Sunflower1970 says:

      Yes. My library too. Factivia, PressDisplay…oooo. When I discovered these, I was in heaven (and I know we have access to a few other ones, but those are the two I use the most)

  29. IGetsAnOpinion says:

    My local paper won’t even give you a free subscription to the online version if your subscribe to the print version. They only deliver 3 days a week, and have 2 days of digital only-which means I miss 2 days of news even though I’m a print subscriber. The online version makes it difficult to find anything besides the main 4 stories a day. They do give you 20 free stories a month that I have to use wisely.

  30. nybiker says:

    Will the workaround of entering the headline in Google and then clicking through the result get you the story without affecting your monthly story count? That’s what I do if/when I hit the NY Times’ limit.

  31. yabdor says:

    And just what makes them think people are going to pay them to read hearsay? There’s not enough actual “news” in the news for me to pay for it. All you get today is gossip. The real story doesn’t come out for another couple days. And b/c of the vanishingly small attention span most people have by the time that happens… no one cares.

    • drjayphd says:

      (initiates Defensive Reporter Mode, realizes you really don’t know what you’re talking about (or, if you do, you’re not referring to what I do), goes back to DEFCON 5)

  32. daemonaquila says:

    Good luck on the revenue, after that. A few premium papers can get away with it. When a large number of papers, especially mediocre Gannett offerings and similar, start doing it, there are going to be crickets chirping on their servers. That also will be the end of their advertising revenue.

    I go to a large number of news sites for different kinds of news, and so do many others who get their news that way. If and when I have to start paying for news from a large number of those sites, I’ll just go elsewhere. If virtually all sites start charging, I may… MAY… get a NY Times online subscription, but it’s unlikely. People are not going to subscribe to multiple papers online, any more than they subscribe to half a dozen or more physical newspapers for delivery.

  33. elliemae says:

    My hometown Gannett paper put up a paywall – all we have to do is go on the main site to grab the name of the story we want, then google it. It’s still free.