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Washington Post To Go Paywall, Along With Buffett-Owned Local Papers 163

Posted by timothy
from the interesting-use-of-the-word-reportedly dept.
McGruber writes "The Washington Post reports that the Washington Post, and local newspapers owned by Warren Buffett, are all planning to follow the New York Times and install metered paywalls." Buffett's got more than 80 papers right now, and hasn't quit buying them. There's some time to read the WaPo sans paywall, but by mid-year it may be up.
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Washington Post To Go Paywall, Along With Buffett-Owned Local Papers

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  • by TwoOfBob (2790593) on Friday December 07, 2012 @08:24PM (#42221605)
    With the easy access to quality international newspapers why would one use Washington Post?
    • by Tx (96709) on Friday December 07, 2012 @08:52PM (#42221845) Journal

      Presumably Buffet is making the same assumptions as Murdoch did in putting The Times (UK) behind a paywall a couple of years ago, namely that a) a tiny number of paying subscribers brings in more money in fees than millions of freeloaders do in ad revenue, and b) hopefully many more major publications will follow suit sooner or later, thus making it harder for people to get quality content for free, and so increasing the chance that they'll decide to pay for their news. There is some evidence [guardian.co.uk] that paywalls work if done right, and are working for the New York Post, the evidence seems slightly more mixed [guardian.co.uk] for The Times, I guess we're a smaller market in the UK, so it will be harder to make it work here. Whether it will be true for the Washington Post remains to be seen, but it's not completely crazy.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        WASHINGTON POST PLUMMETS TO DEATH.

        The NY Times is steadily failing, like a ship with a small leak. Its perforated paywall, not withstanding.

        • Any dead tree newspaper that fails to make the transition to new media is just as dead as Encyclopedia Brittanica, regardless of the quality of its journalism. It's sad to see LA Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post wither away, but wither they will under the dead hands of Murdoch and Buffet. Winners: trees. Losers: senile billionaires.

          • "Any dead tree newspaper that fails to make the transition to new media is just as dead as Encyclopedia Brittanica, regardless of the quality of its journalism. "

            You implied but did not say "transitioning to new media" does not automatically mean paywall.

            I'll stick with the "free" services for now. I might not get some of the news until half a day later than some who pay, but I hardly care. I stopped watching the news on television 3 years ago, and don't much miss it. And that was "free".

            • by calzones (890942)

              Come to think of it, news has always been pretty much free (especially if you're willing to wait for the next issue to come out).

          • by schnell (163007) <meNO@SPAMschnell.net> on Saturday December 08, 2012 @01:38AM (#42223283) Homepage

            Winners: trees. Losers: senile billionaires.

            Also losers: the American public.

            You know how news is, like, free on the Interwebs? It's because somebody (not you) is paying for actual, trained reporters to investigate issues and write things. In this case it's the media outlets who pay for and contribute content to AP/UPI/etc. This whole arrangement was created a century ago so that a newspaper in Cleveland for example wouldn't have to send a reporter to Washington DC for politics, to New York for financial news, etc. It was a collective action among these newspapers to share costs so they could offer their local readers with national/international news coverage while paying a fraction of the price. AP/UPI wire coverage news would be the same in every newspaper basically... but local readers (and advertisers!) would choose based on the quality of the stories and value a LOCAL newspaper provides to LOCAL readers. So far so good.

            But then come the Interwebs. Newspapers are used to the ad-driven model so they figure they can still pay for their local reporters and AP/UPI content through a mix of paper subscriptions (and ad rates), then put their newspaper online for free. Not so much, since online ads pay a heck of a lot less than print ads do. And the classified ads and local advertising that have effectively subsidized the business of paying actual reporters for decades have largely vanished to Internet advertising houses like Google with better localization algorithms and more pervasive user tracking. So what you end up with is newspapers trying to pay for the old style of journalism with a mix of declining print revenues (which could pay the bills) and online revenues (which aren't enough to pay the bills).

            Far more damaging to newspapers: businesses like Breitbart, NewsMax, etc. that do no original reporting themselves (or at least none of value) just pay the wire service fees and are actually able to squeak by on online ad revenues, unlike the newspapers that pay for actual reporters and contribute net new content. End result: nearly all newspapers are in decline, and many if not most will go down the drain. So eventually there will be just one or two syndicated wire services and every news outlet will reprint exactly the same content, and the market for local investigative journalism will pretty much dry up since the AP wouldn't pay a reporter to spend three months exposing local corruption in the Fargo North Dakota mayor's office... whereas a Fargo newspaper might, if there still were one.

            The kinda sorta flip side is that quality newspapers (or blogs or whatever) will win... once there is no "free lunch" on news, pretty much all news will have to be for-pay again. That will suck for those of us who currently don't pay for news, but the surviving outlets will have to distinguish themselves on the quality of their local or specialty reporting. Personally, I read the Washington Post online each day for free but probably wouldn't pay for it... I do however pay for a subscription to The Economist that I read on my Kindle (and throw out the weekly paper version). Maybe this is good in that in the future - after free commoditized news is dead - all news outlets will need to make their content good enough for users to be willing to pay for.

            P.S. Please do not give me this "we don't need reporters or LAMESTREAM MEDIA anymore because of bloggers" BS because the world needs organizations that will actually vouch for the work of their reporters (against the threat of expensive libel suits) and provide some seal of QA on the veracity of reportage. Imagine a world where the only sources of news are a million different jackass versions of The Drudge Report or The Huffington Post... except with no "real" news to link to.

            • by Celarent Darii (1561999) on Saturday December 08, 2012 @05:41AM (#42224009)
              What you say would be true, but the fact is that newspapers don't really do any reporting now. Most news is actually just another way to advertise a new product or editorialize on some topic. Outlets like FoxNews are really just entertainment masquerading as news. The same could be said of all the major 24-hour news stations and weekly papers. I would gladly pay for a magazine, even online, if they actually did some reporting and not simply copy the Reuters feeds. Even look at the newspapers on any given day, they are reporting the exact same events, even with the same clichés.
              • by isorox (205688)

                What you say would be true, but the fact is that newspapers don't really do any reporting now.

                Really. Robert Fisk and Marie Colvin immediately spring to mind from the newspaper industry (I subscribe to the Independent, and happened to read the Sunday times the week before Marie was killed. I tend to rely on the BBC for domestic (UK) news, but read a little wider for global news as that's where I work. I pay attention to the individuals names as it's a dangerous lifestyle.

                There's a massive difference between seasoned veteran reporters and local bloggers. I follow a couple of non-journalist colleagues

                • Real journalism matters. Whether it's Robert Fisk, Jeremy Bowen or Rania Abouzeid, the story's the same - these people go in to hellholes and risk their lives to get the news out. Your advertising from your blog won't even pay for the flak jacket.

                  With this I would agree with you entirely. My only point is that most newspapers are not doing what you describe - they are simply cut and paste from Reuters. The people you mentioned I haven't even heard of before to be honest, and the signal to noise ratio in modern news is so great that most people just turn it off. The fact is that real journalism does not imply a profit margin, and in fact usually works against it (no dangerous occupation is cheap). Since news is now a business, real journalism becomes

            • It's because somebody (not you) is paying for actual, trained reporters to investigate issues and write things.

              I logged in just to laugh out loud about this statement.

              The last investigation that I saw a reporter do was a BBC radio reporter about the obscene rise in rice prices back in 2008. I do not even recall ever seeing any serious reporting before (I was too young to notice Nixon) that report or since that report. Fuck 'em. Let the "news" outlets burn. When they start doing serious journalism again, I will stop laughing at your statement.

              • by kcitren (72383)
                I don't know what media your listening to / reading. Investigative journalism is alive and well, even if the topics don't make national news. You say you're too young to notice Nixon, but there have been a few other major journalist / news initiated investigations since then. Gary Webb's "Dark Alliance" investigation linking the CIA to the drug trafficking, as well as the earlier investigation into Iran / Contra 10 years earlier. More recently, the uncovering of the NYPD spying on Mosques and Muslim gr
            • ...nearly all newspapers are in decline, and many if not most will go down the drain...

              True, however at least there is some satisfaction watching corrupt old billionaires buying them up at what they think is bargain prices, only to watch the value just continue to circle the drain. I also think paywall newspapers are doomed. Just as Encylopedia failed against crowd-sourced Wikipedia, so will the old line newspapers trying to survive on paying subscribers. Not completey fail, but fade away to organizations more closely resembling newsletters than the glorious public opinion arbitors of yore.

              • by schnell (163007) <meNO@SPAMschnell.net> on Saturday December 08, 2012 @04:44PM (#42227625) Homepage

                The future is millions of amateur reporters who collectively do a better job of reporting the truth than the old line newspapers ever did... The future is [...] crowd-sourced news...

                No. No it is not. It never ever will be.

                To use your example from above, "think about the real people on the ground in Syria reporting the verifiable truth, and directly uploading it to Youtube." How is somebody's Youtube video verifiable truth? Just because you hear bullets in the background? OK, but who is shooting them? At whom? Why? In any conflict, you will get 50% of the "real people" uploading to Youtube saying the other guys started it and they're the villains... and the other 50% saying the opposite. Who is correct here, and how are you ever going to find that out by videotaping yourself on the street? Why should I expect that you have insight or information that other people don't? How do I know you're not making shit up about what's happening, and how are you held accountable for not speaking the truth? If I don't know you, why should I believe you instead of anyone else?

                I love the idea of democratizing expression, and there is a role for the zillion citizens and their Youtube feeds out there. But you cannot have an informed citizenry without known persons or media sources who are willing to stand behind the truth of their reporting. Otherwise we have 7 billion "news" sources out there and no reasonable idea which to believe.

                Crowd-sourced news as a source or supplement to "real" journalism? Invaluable. Crowd-sourced news as a replacement for professional journalism? A terrible, terrible, awful idea.

        • by sycodon (149926) on Friday December 07, 2012 @11:33PM (#42222771)

          I have a paper.

          I charge for subscriptions, but it really doesn't cover the cost of printing and delivery. I get most of my revenue for Ads.

          The more people that read my paper, the more people want to advertise with me and the more I can charge.

          Then came this internet thingy. I can put my paper on line and now people throughout the world will see my content and my ads.

          Put these mean people are linking directly to my news stories so they don't see the front page. I don't know why, but that pisses me off.

          So I'm going to start charging people to see my Ads on the interweb thingy. That'll show them.

          • i am surprised that advertisers haven't gotten the fact that just because you put an ad in a paper you can assuredly say that that person will buy from you or whatever,. most people have tuned out ads completely. the same goes for tv advertising. how can you charge someone for ads when you cant give them hard numbers on exactly how many people are looking or viewing ads.
            • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

              i am surprised that advertisers haven't gotten the fact that just because you put an ad in a paper you can assuredly say that that person will buy from you or whatever,. most people have tuned out ads completely. the same goes for tv advertising. how can you charge someone for ads when you cant give them hard numbers on exactly how many people are looking or viewing ads.

              I think most businesses would disagree with your hypothesis as they have studies to show the impact on the bottom line of various advertising campaigns. There is a lot of statistics to support what advertisers are doing. It might not be true science like chemistry or physics, but it is valid.

            • Bob Lewis pointed out in a column that Hostess went under from lack of advertising. The unions offered concessions. The managers did take millions but their business plan was expecting hundreds of millions from a working, profitable company. And it didn't matter if they only sold junk food, no other junk food company has gone under.

              Bob Lewis asked when was the last time you saw any ad for Wonder Bread (builds body 12 ways) or Twinkies. You cannot tell if advertising matter-of-factly works but I don't thin
          • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            There are two other important factors you missed.

            Online ad rates are much lower than print ad rates. The maths barely work for print newspapers, and fail online.

            There are a vast number of other news web sites, all equally accessible to my readers. Newspapers are a small market I can try to dominate, online news is a vast market where I have to complete not just with other news sites but with blogs and Twitter.

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        Um, but if the number of paying subscribers is tiny, is it really news? Or is it a... I dunno... fanzine? Moreover, how does one pay reporters with the proceeds from a tiny number of paying subscribers? If the answer is they'll "get news from the wire services, why couldn't we also go there directly and not pay the newspaper?

        I appreciate that newspapers are trying to find a business model that makes sense, but I can't see this model working.

        Parenthetically, what's really going to be interesting is to see

        • Traditionally, newspapers survived on advertising-- local advertising. The internet ripped apart this cushy model.

          • by roc97007 (608802)

            One would think that an online only newspaper could still survive on local advertising. Lots of websites survive exclusively on advertising, and to make it local merely requires targeted ads based on location -- which is clearly a known science.

            • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

              One would think that an online only newspaper could still survive on local advertising. Lots of websites survive exclusively on advertising, and to make it local merely requires targeted ads based on location -- which is clearly a known science.

              That is what the problem is, even on the national and international level. Yes, an online newspaper could survive on local advertising as long as others couldn't link to the articles and bypass the ads, which is what is happening.

              Besides, I don't understand all the fuss. If people value, say the Times, they won't mind paying for it. If the price is too high, they won't pay for it. Isn't that how a free market works?

              • by roc97007 (608802)

                Personally, I don't value online newspapers for the same reason I stopped buying physical papers. I don't see the point in paying someone else to filter the news of the world through a particular agenda. I would rather have access to the raw feed (if available) and make my own decisions about what's important to me.

                • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

                  Personally, I don't value online newspapers for the same reason I stopped buying physical papers. I don't see the point in paying someone else to filter the news of the world through a particular agenda. I would rather have access to the raw feed (if available) and make my own decisions about what's important to me.

                  You realize that such use is fleeting. More and more sites will go to a pay wall system, particularly as their paper versions can no longer foot the bill for providing free on line access. These companies do need to make pay bills.

                  So, unless by raw feed you mean anonymous people posting twitter and you tube videos, you won't even have that. Then again, by what means do you have to assess that the person(s) posting such content on their own doesn't have their own agenda?

                  I don't pay for a news service to fi

                  • by roc97007 (608802)

                    Well, a couple things. First, what we call newspapers, except for whatever local stories they decide to cover, are just news aggregators, and have been for some time.

                    Second, I think we haven't seen the last of this story. When newspapers stop printing and delivering physical newspapers, most if not all union workers will be out of work. I don't think the unions will allow that, preferring (as with Hostess) that the company go out of business rather than switch to a model that excludes them.

                    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

                      When newspapers stop printing and delivering physical newspapers, most if not all union workers will be out of work. I don't think the unions will allow that, preferring (as with Hostess) that the company go out of business rather than switch to a model that excludes them.

                      The bakers at Hostess are scapegoats, they didn't want the company to go out of business. They were set up for this role by being ask to take huge concessions that for many of them would have put their net pay below minimum wage.

                      What did Hostess in was not the bakers. There are 20% fewer children in the US today than in the 1960s. That is the primary market for their products. In addition, with all the stuff about trans-fats and the like, sales of their key products have been in decline (just like kryspy cr

                    • by roc97007 (608802)

                      Welp, it doesn't really matter to me, as I haven't bought any of their brands in a long time. A couple things occur to me; that the potential audience for their products reduced by 20 percent is something that happens in business, and sometimes it's not anyone's fault -- it's a social change unrelated to the product. As a result, the company has to try to figure out how to survive while doing significantly less business. Often this requires that the employees accept lower wages and/or benefits, or that t

      • and b) hopefully many more major publications will follow suit sooner or later, thus making it harder for people to get quality content for free, and so increasing the chance that they'll decide to pay for their news.

        c) He could just buy many more major publications, and force them to follow suit. I mean, it's not like he's hurting for cash . . .

        . . . but then again . . . he's still betting that people will think that the news he's offering is worth paying for. I'm not really concerned that the world will stop if I miss another story about a 'methed up Lindsay Lohan getting arrested while driving Justin Bieber's Fisker through Kim Kardashian' butt cheeks . . .

        • . . . but then again . . . he's still betting that people will think that the news he's offering is worth paying for. I'm not really concerned that the world will stop if I miss another story about a 'methed up Lindsay Lohan getting arrested while driving Justin Bieber's Fisker through Kim Kardashian' butt cheeks . . .

          Ummm, assuming Justin calls his left arm "Fisker", that particular story may actually have some internet revenue potential... The video would for sure.

      • by hibiki_r (649814)

        El Pais tried it years ago in Spain. The competition ate their lunch, and haven't recovered the market share yet

      • Presumably Buffet is making the same assumptions as Murdoch did in putting The Times (UK) behind a paywall a couple of years ago, namely that a) a tiny number of paying subscribers brings in more money in fees than millions of freeloaders do in ad revenue, and b) hopefully many more major publications will follow suit sooner or later, thus making it harder for people to get quality content for free, and so increasing the chance that they'll decide to pay for their news. There is some evidence [guardian.co.uk] that paywalls work if done right, and are working for the New York Post, the evidence seems slightly more mixed [guardian.co.uk] for The Times, I guess we're a smaller market in the UK, so it will be harder to make it work here. Whether it will be true for the Washington Post remains to be seen, but it's not completely crazy.

        It probably depends a lot on the slant of the news. If you want your news with a liberal slant then you will support one paper. Conservative slant another. There does not appear to be a news source available without a bias. We might as well be reading vacuum tubes because they're all biased... negatively.

        The last sentence is for folks over 60.

    • by SEE (7681) on Friday December 07, 2012 @10:13PM (#42222423) Homepage

      I suspect it's an attempt to replicate the Wall Street Journal model. The Wall Street Journal business/finance reporting, especially focused on the New York exchanges, is not generally replicated among mass-market newspapers. And it constitutes genuinely valuable work-related information to certain people who also have employer-provided expense accounts, these people go ahead and subscribe, and the subscriptions are paid by their employer as a business expense.

      The Washington Post at least had (I don't know if they currently still do) a reputation for doing detailed nuts-and-bolts political/policy reporting on the US Federal Government in depth that nobody else matched. That is similarly genuinely valuable work-related information to certain people who also have employer-provided expense accounts, who will (presumably) then go ahead and subscribe, the subscriptions are paid by their employer as a business expense.

      The Buffet-owned papers are, according to the article, going to go with "local, local, local stuff." Which is to say, the theory is the subscription will be worth it for the stuff that you can't get from a general-interest international paper. I'm more suspicious of this model; it doesn't have the advantage of the expense accounts. But it does at least try to sell something other than AP wire reports.

    • Warren Buffet despite his foibles as we know is a crazy good investor. The question in my mind is why invest in newspapers when there is some evidence that they are a dying business model. On one hand, there is always going to be a need for news (and writers / journalists) but a much more decentralized model seems to rule day as many of the blogs do (such as Huffington Post). I would be really interested in knowing what his game play is as far as the newspapers are concerned. It could be they simply allow

  • by vivek7006 (585218) on Friday December 07, 2012 @08:29PM (#42221661) Homepage

    Firefox rules. I have been using addons refcontrol to take care of paywalled websites like nytimes.com, wsj.com etc.
    linky: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/refcontrol/ [mozilla.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TwoOfBob (2790593)
      You do know that only works because enough people don't care to use it, right?
      • Trick question, right? It will continue to work even if many people use it, as long as the papers want google news to index them.

      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday December 07, 2012 @08:46PM (#42221781)

        You do know that only works because enough people don't care to use it, right?

        Maybe in the "not going out of business" sense that is true. But in the specific sense of "if a lot of other people do that too, they will close the loophole" what you wrote is not true. The reason that it is not true is their "paywall-model" is based on high porosity. They want people to be able to read a limited number of articles with as little friction as possible in order to get them hooked enough to pay for unlimited access.

        The problem is that they can't be both highly porous and completely locked down. If it comes to that, their current business model will fall apart. The highly-locked down paywall model has been shown to fail in most cases, only working for very specific markets and general interest news has not been one of them.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        You do know that only works because enough people don't care to use it, right?

        no, it only works because the companies are real lazy about the method they use for providing free number of articles to people.

        because it's hard to get people to check out your content at all if you insist on login credentials beforehand, for even those free articles. a local newspaper does that now here, all that's needed is flushing of cookies to beat the system. they know damn well that's all it needs or at least their web contracting company knows...

        but people are not ready to start using mandatory fb

        • by TwoOfBob (2790593)
          What part of my post did you miss? It works just because enough people don't care to missplay it
        • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday December 07, 2012 @09:04PM (#42221929)

          it only works because the companies are real lazy ...

          Not lazy. Smart. They want as many readers as possible, paying or not, because those readers generate ad revenue and "buzz" as they discuss the articles, and put links to them in blogs, facebook posts, etc. They would rather have as many of those readers pay up as possible, but would rather keep them as unpaying customers than lose them completely. So they put up a paywall to get revenue from readers willing to pay, but they still keep the readers that are willing to put in some effort to circumvent the paywall.

          The situation is similar with software. Software publishers want people to pay, but would rather have people "pirate" their software than not use it at all, because they know that helps them build market share in the long run.

    • by antdude (79039)

      What do you enter with it for paywalled web sites?

  • why do I give a shit?

  • I feel like going out to eat tonight... perhaps at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Anyone want to join me? Perhaps we can talk about investing, and that Warren guy... what's his name...Oh, yes. Buffett. And then it's off to Margaritaville for a nightcap...
    • by Romwell (873455)
      The twist is that Washington Post is actually owned by the buffet you're going to.
  • by symbolset (646467) * on Friday December 07, 2012 @08:39PM (#42221729) Homepage Journal
    Anybody know how to tell Google News "don't show me paywall sites?" Or to blacklist sites in some way?
  • Guess I'll have to just use twitter instead, and read the original news from the original source.

    Information just wants to be free.

  • From potential customers. And nothing of value was lost.

  • by alen (225700) on Friday December 07, 2012 @08:45PM (#42221773)

    And upi. That's what most news articles are, reprints of what they buy from the three big news gathering organizations

    Local news? Between blogs, twitter and aol's push into local news there is no reason to pay for news

  • Why do people go to washingtonpost.com instead of nytimes.com or wsj.com? One reason is the paywall at nytimes and wsj. What should a competent CEO do? Naturally, throw away the competitive advantage, lest it be unfair to the others.
  • by supremebob (574732) <themejunky.geocities@com> on Friday December 07, 2012 @08:48PM (#42221803) Journal

    Was once quoted a few years ago that he didn't invest in technology companies like Microsoft because he didn't understand how they operated.

    Apparently his knowledge of how the Internet works hasn't improved much since then.

  • ...and I don't read the paper nor the website (much). Don't think it will affect me (much)
    • by DewDude (537374)
      I live in NoVA too...and Buffet is shutting down our local paper (News & Messenger). This ends actually having an idea of what's going on in the county/locally.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday December 07, 2012 @08:56PM (#42221875) Homepage

    Fact is, the more business out there struggles to come to terms with the internet and what people do with it, the more it becomes apparent which will adapt and which will need to be replaced.

    There is a big hint offered in how business perceives the net. If they see it as a threat and attempt to battle it, they will lose.

  • Most newspapers are losing money and subscribers, why would anyone buy them up? There's been a lot of scandals with newspapers inflating the number of subscribers. Wasn't it the New York Times that was throwing out 50,000 papers a day a couple of years back? The papers were just to inflate their subscriber base for advertisers. I hardly read a newspaper at all anymore. Maybe once a week or two. Nothing that I haven't heard 2 or 3 days earlier on Slashdot or Fark
    • by Mashiki (184564)

      One is the the internet, the second is every newspaper is simply recycling stories from UPI, Reuters, and AFP. The third is bias.

      • One is the the internet, the second is every newspaper is simply recycling stories from UPI, Reuters, and AFP

        For the most part, the New York Times doesn't recycle wire service stories. That's part of their charm. Neither does the Washington Post, (but I prefer the Times). There are a lot of papers out there who rely on wire services for anything that's not local news-- and those papers are probably unsustainable.

        • by Mashiki (184564)

          For the most part, the New York Times doesn't recycle wire service stories. That's part of their charm. Neither does the Washington Post,

          Wow. And you actually believe that? About 40-50% of the content out of the major lead stories of both papers are directly from a wire service. They recycle wire service stories as well, but they also toss in their bias as well.

          Then again, this is what killed things like newsweek among others.

  • by aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) on Friday December 07, 2012 @09:19PM (#42222077)

    I can't blame the Washington Post. This isn't an isolated move. News publishers throughout the West are fighting to have some pay mechanism in place, either through legilsation, such as in France and Germany, or through paywalls, in English-speaking speaking countries like the US and UK.

    A single paper restricting access to its free news service isn't bad. It may impove its bottom line. But imagine what would happen if the majority of the online publications in the West decide to go the pay-before-you-read route? Then more and more people who want to read the news online would go to the remaining free news sources. And guess what? There are organization than would be more than eager to fill the vacuum.

    Russia, China, and the news or propoganda organizations of other authoritarian/totalitarian countires can well afford to subsidize online sites that can broadcast or publish their outlook on world events. They just need a little more time to polish off their English, make it sound less like party propaganda and apparat-speak. Perhaps a brand name change would is also in order, if names like Russia Today and China Central TV sound pretty ominous to citizens of Western liberal democracies.

    Let's just hope that relatively unbiased news sites like the BBC remain "free" for the rest of the world to read.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So the King of spreading the wealth (Mr. Tax Me More) has no problem with giving away other people's money, but when it comes to his own things, he doesn't want to give them away? Say it ain't so!

  • by bedouin (248624) on Friday December 07, 2012 @09:25PM (#42222123)

    I guess I'll be using Bugmenot [bugmenot.com] with WP like I have with the NY TImes for years.

  • When was the last time the Washington post, or any newspaper for that mater, reported something that wasn't part of the democrat or republican talking points for the day? They're dieing because they stopped reporting "news" sometime in the 1970s. Fuck them, they deserve the fate they've been dealt.

  • by tlambert (566799) on Friday December 07, 2012 @10:33PM (#42222513)

    I stopped subscribing to physical newspapers as soon as their content hit over 50% advertising on the normal news pages, and they became nothing more than a cheaper-than-the-USPS method for distributing sales circulars and coupons.

    Electronic publishers, including those for eBooks, and not just limited to "eNewspapers", have become nearly unreadable, because they no longer employ actual, human editors to correct spelling and grammatical errors; if I have to correct it in my head, that's work I'm doing that they should be doing before I even see it.

    The eNewspapers are even more egregiously failing me than eBooks, since for non-fiction, their fact checking is seriously lacking -- not that the print versions are doing any better in this regard.

    The profession of investigative journalism of the type practiced by Neil Sheehan, Bob Woodward, and Carl Bernstein is effectively dead in todays news media. The closest you will see is the occasional television journalistic "scoop", in which a whistle-blower has effectively handed the story to the likes of 60 Minutes, with a bow on it, and they ran with the story because it lacked sufficient controversy to get them in legal hot water.

    A pay wall will likely not get me to read this eTripe any more than I already do, which is best characterized as "infrequently at best", and will certainly disincentivize me further if, on paying the fee, I find that there are still large tracts of ads fighting for my attention as they attempt to further monetize my already monetized eyeballs.

    Look, morons, it's very simple:

    (1) Provide your ad-blasted tripe for free
    (2) Write stories that have more depth than their first sentence, or you will not be seeing me click through
    (3) Hire some damn editors
    (4) Clearly mark syndicated vs. non-syndicated content
    (5) Let me have a try-before-I-buy time limited subscription without asking for my billing details up front; I do not have a business relationship with you unless I like you
    (6) Profit!!!!

    Do I think this model will work for you? Not long term, as the New York Times is in the process of demonstrating. So approach the problem a different way.

    Personally, I would prefer that you just syndicate your original content through Google, and concentrate on that, rather than fitting it in the column inches of syndicated content I can get anywhere else I happen to look. Let Google or whoever emerges as "the one new portal" pay your syndication fees out of their ad revenue, and leave me the hell out of it.

    You need to realize that you are not going to do ad serving better than Google does it. Just give the hell up now, and do what you can do better than Google (and do it before Google gets better at it than you are because you are running around with no focus).

    And hire some damn editors. If my 6th grade niece can point out your grammar faux pas, you should damn well be able to hire someone with an English degree, whose other options for a career would otherwise be limited to either making more people with English degrees or asking me "would you like fries with that?" to fix your spelling and grammar.

    Oh, and finally: some idiots blog doesn't count as news, so leave their publication to Blogspot, and stick with actual news, please.

  • by knorthern knight (513660) on Friday December 07, 2012 @11:52PM (#42222879)

    I believe that the newspaper industry's underlying problems existed before the internet. Yes, the internet exacerbated them and sped up the collapse, but they were around before the internet. I believe that, even without the internet, these problems would've eventually hit newspaper publishing revenues, but it would've taken longer to do so.

        First question... what was the newspaper business model? For many advertisers, newspapers were the only source of eyeballs for their products/services before the internet. Newspapers used their print advertising monopoly to charge extremely high ad rates, which paid for...
    * the cost of printing/running the ad
    * paying reporters and foreign correspondents all over the country and around the world
    * and a nice fat 30%+ annual ROI for shareholders
    In plain English, newspapers effectively levied a tax on advertisers. This defacto "advertising-tax" paid for newspaper journalism, among other things.

        The newspaper business model, which subsidized journalism, could be attacked by advertisers getting their products/services in front of customer eyeballs by a method other than newspaper ads ("advertising-tax avoidance"). The "advertising-tax avoidance" scenario played out over the years...

    * "Auto Trader Magazine" was established in 1977. See http://www.manta.com/c/mmj727f/auto-trader-magazine [manta.com] It had one major advantage over newspaper classifieds... it did not have the overhead of paying for the salaries/accomadations/airline-tickets of reporters all over the planet. It was an advertising "pure play", that had a lot less overhead than a newspaper, and could make a profit while charging much lower ad rates.

    * Right now in Toronto (where I live) there are 2 or 3 free weekly employment "papers" (to use the term loosely) that can be picked up at newspaper boxes around the city. They're 1/2 tabloid size. One reason they can use the free model is that they don't have to pay for reporters, etc. The ads paid for by employers are sufficient.

    * Back in the mid-1980's, when I was looking for a place to live in Toronto, I found "The Real Estate Weekly". It was a free 1/2 tabloid put out by the local MLS (Multiple Listing Service), a co-operative venture of local real estate firms. It had a lot more leeway that Auto Trader or the employment weeklies. Auto Trader and the employment weeklies are put out by for-profit corporations. "The Real Estate Weekly" could break even, or even lose a bit of money. But as long as it cost the the member real estate firms less than running ads in local papers, the real
    estate firms came out ahead.

    * Major national chains began printing their own advertising flyers and having newspapers insert them ("advertising inserts"). The original reason was that it was a pain for a national outfit to co-ordinate running the same ad at the same time at dozens of papers across the country, or even a region. Also, there were some newspapers that didn't have 4-colour presses, and were physically incapable of printing the multicoloured ad inserts. Then the national chains found out that it cost a lot less to do their own printing, and let the newspapers do the physical delivery. Then, with falling newspaper circulation, it became obvious that the newspaper deliveries covered only part of the target market. The only way to cover all of a market was to either...
        - have a private firm deliver the flyers door-to-door (suitable for single-dwelling units)
        - or send the flyers as 3rd-class "junkmail" to all units in rental and condominium buildings

        Notice something about the 4 examples above? There is no mention whatsoever of the internet or the World Wide Web. Even in a pre-web world, newspapers were losing classified ad revenues for used cars, employment, real estate, and retail advertising to non-newspaper competitors. The competitors have now expanded to websites, but the first losses were occuring before the web existed.

  • When most people hit a pay wall, here is what we do: Copy title of article we wanted to read, past it into google, read what google gives us from another source that is offering it for free.

  • Just Before Internet, regional newspapers (major metro area here) charged US$55 for a 2-line ad to appear for one week. For anything legal that you wanted to sell.

    Which tells me the business model was already failing even if the newspapers did not know it. Failing because the newspapers were forcing people with US$1000 (and less) items to find other ways to advertise and thus teaching readers to not bother looking in the ads in the newspaper. Impulse buyers and many others simply seized on the Internet w

  • People will do it, but those in the know pay to know what the propaganda is.

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