Friday, September 25, 2009

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner To Begin Charging For Online Content In 2010; KTVA Channel 11 And Kodiak Daily Mirror May Follow Suit

Update September 24th 2011: Neither the News-Miner nor KTVA followed through on plans to charge for content, and neither currently plan to do so. The Kodiak Daily Mirror now requires a paid subscription to view their content.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner will begin charging for access to at least some of its online content on their website sometime during 2010, and KTVA Channel 11 and the Kodiak Daily Mirror may follow suit.

On Wednesday September 23rd, 2009, the Anchorage Press reported the intent of the News-Miner to take this step. According to the Press, News-Miner managing editor Rob Boyce recently floated the idea before a few journalism classes at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF). Boyce has not chosen to address this issue for the official record yet, though, and there has been no official indication from either Channel 11 or the Mirror that they will follow suit.

However, the News-Miner, Channel 11, and the Mirror are all part of the MediaNews Group conglomerate presided over by CEO Dean Singleton (the Press claims that the News-Miner is actually owned by a Singleton family trust rather than MediaNews itself, but the distinction appears academic). Supposedly, Rob Boyce originated the idea for the News-Miner independently without any corporate leverage applied. A complete list of all 54 MediaNews media outlets is available HERE.

But Dean Singleton has now provided stronger public confirmation of this development. During a speech delivered to the National Conference of Editorial Writers on Thursday September 24th, 2009, Singleton, the CEO of MediaNews Group, disclosed that all media outlets in his company will begin charging for at least some of their online content beginning sometime in 2010. Singleton cited the fact that all news organizations are feeling economic pressures. He said that since 2006, revenues for metro dailies nationally are down 40 percent, and that 30 of the 50 biggest papers are losing money. But Singleton also said that revenue isn't the only issue, explaining that when you give it away for free, it has no value. When you begin charging for it, it establishes value.

Singleton also clearly stated that he plans to implement the changes throughout his ENTIRE company. If I interpret this correctly, this means that all their media outlets will be required to put at least some content behind a "pay wall"; none would be allowed to opt-out altogether. But the amount and type of content to be paid will be determined by each individual media outlet, depending upon local market conditions. This is why I believe KTVA Channel 11 and the Kodiak Daily Mirror will have no choice but to ultimately follow suit.

Since the editorial conference is taking place in Salt Lake City, KSL Channel 5 is providing the coverage. In the video embedded below, you can toggle between the Main Story Video and a 16-minute interview with Dean Singleton. I strongly recommend you watch the Singleton interview; it is surprisingly interesting. While the specifics have yet to evolve, Singleton did discuss the prospective impact on the Salt Lake Tribune, and this could be considered a possible model for any other MediaNews group outlet, including the News-Miner.

Video Courtesy of KSL.com



Based on Singleton's remarks in the video, here's the most likely implementation model for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

Print Edition Subscribers: Subscribers to the print edition of the News-Miner would likely get all online content for free. Thus the strategy is obviously intended to halt and reverse the continuing decline in print subscriptions.

Non-Subscribers to the Print Edition: Essentially, the basics would likely remain free, but in-depth stories will cost. For example, breaking news reports, blogs, and game scores with basic game stories will remain free. What will cost will be in-depth reports behind the stories. Subscriptions to the online edition for non-subscribers to the print edition will undoubtedly be made available, but there also may be special stories requiring an additional charge. For example, Boyce may be thinking about a $9.95 charge for specialized in-depth coverage of all sports, such as the Nanooks, the Grizzlies, the Iditarod, the Iron Dog, and local high school sports (such a charge will still not apply to print subscribers).

Singleton did not discuss a possible implementation model for broadcast media outlets such as KTVA Channel 11. But considering KTUU Channel 2's pronounced dominance of the Anchorage broadcast news market, the implications for Channel 11 would not be good.

Note that at this point, the projected implementation model is still my own speculation. Boyce has neither officially confirmed that he has intended to do this, nor has he set forth a specific plan. I really don't believe Rob Boyce would put all his content behind a pay wall; it would mean the end of the News-Miner if he took such a drastic step.

Public Reaction: Initial public reaction, in the form of 71 comments posted to the KSL story as of this post, is highly unfavorable. Several individuals predict the new model will fail. Others say they will drop the Salt Lake Tribune and simply go to the crosstown Deseret News and other free sources for their information. And that's an important point; the Deseret News has no plans to implement a pay wall at this time, so they're likely to benefit. The same reaction is likely in Fairbanks; while the News-Miner has no print competition in Fairbanks, some may turn to local broadcast media outlets, Alaska Dispatch, or even the Anchorage Daily News for online coverage of Fairbanks news.

But placing some specialized content behind a pay wall may not be as bad as some people think. The Ogden Standard-Examiner and the Pitsburgh Post-Gazette have used a split system for quite a while now, so you can look at their websites to see what the Tribune - or the News-Miner - might look like after they make the change.

3 comments:

  1. I understand the economics behind such a move. What I don't understand is why they do not put advertisers from their on air/paper editions also on websites?

    There will be a crystal ball time, when truth seekers will decide the printed news is good for lining the birdcage, and pay-2-read is silly. The losers won't be the subscribers/readers. It will be the owners of the news outlets.

    If I can watch KTVU or read the printed News-Miner, why would I wish to pay for online editions?

    Cutting off noses (readers) only spites their faces!

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  2. THAT IS GOOD NEWS!
    the sooner these posers go OUT OF BUSINESS real news people like AA can get jobs.

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  3. I thought it was the Fairbanks Daily Nose-Miner.

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