Starting tomorrow, the Akron Beacon Journal's
web affiliate Ohio.com
will kick start its web membership model (i.e. PAYWALL
) which will allow readers to view only seven articles per month free of charge. After that threshold, readers can opt to purchase an online only subscription ($11/month) or go whole-hog and become print subscribers, which will include a digital membership ($19.50/month for daily delivery or $9.99/month for weekend delivery).
Allow us to interject here, briefly, to ask why the Akron Beacon Journal's
web affiliate is Ohio.com? Why not AkronBeaconJournal.com or even Akron.com? What gives?
"With this step, the Beacon Journal
joins many other daily newspapers across the country, from the New York Times
and Wall Street Journa
l to the Cincinnati Enquirer
and Columbus Dispatch,
" wrote Publisher Mark Cohen in his post. "This is an important step that we hope you will see as an investment in yourself to remain an informed participant in your community.
Cohen and his team can hope all they like, but the research on the success of paywalls is anything but clear. Citing the behavior of the New York Times
or Wall Street Journal
is fashionable, but isn't a profitable or relevant comparison, as both of those publications represent major international brands. The prevailing thought holds that for smaller papers, a paywall is actually the opposite of an effective media strategy.
Said the Techdirt blog
when the San Francisco Chronicle
backpedaled on its paywall implementation last summer:
"A paywall is the exact wrong strategy for most newspapers, since the real business they're in is building a community and then selling that community's attention. Yet, a paywall makes it much, much harder to build a community, first by putting up a tollbooth, and then making it nearly impossible for readers to share the news and bring others into that community."
Meantime, Advance Publications (parent company of the PD
and others) continues to stick to its digital-first guns, swearing that they've made "promising steps" in their efforts to offset print revenue declines.
Poynter's Rick Edmonds says
that though the strategy (you know, cutting staffs and delivery days and sucking real hard
) may have been premature, Advance may ultimately be vindicated for their approach: "the sooner you start on radical culture change, the sooner you get there," he wrote.