A year ago, I wrote about anti-paywall dead-enders who, despite evidence that metered paywalls work, held on to their legacy notions. They didn’t much like that then and they don’t like it now.
And DFM’s Steve Buttry can barely muster a post. No word from Jeff Jarvis yet.
It’s no wonder Ken Doctor writes something like this, as biting as anything you’ll ever read from him:
Internet fundamentalists claimed that a erecting a paywall showed just how clueless and out of touch the Times was; didn’t it know it had to play and figure out a business model within the Church of Free, how God intended all news content to be offered up to the world forever on.
These theories had disastrous real-world consequences: incompetent newspaper publishers bought this nonsense or impotently failed to reject them.
It’s impossible to know what the newspaper industry would look like had it rejected the freehadists a decade ago when it was still healthy. It would surely still be in serious trouble.
But there’s no doubt that papers would be in significantly better shape than they are today. That’s worth being ticked off about.
Finally, as a preemptive measure let me reprint my handy guide to anti-paywall straw men:
— Paywalls are not a panacea, a cure-all, or a magic solution.
Nobody thinks they are. Nobody (that I’ve seen) has ever said that. Digital subscriptions are an incremental source of revenue at a time when newspapers are bleeding to death and digital ads are bringing in four bucks a CPM. They won’t succeed everywhere, particularly at newspapers that have gutted their newsrooms, and they’re not enough on their own to assure we have robust news coverage. But it’s money on the table that newspapers can’t reject hoping for some nebulous future “free” innovation, which not one of 1,500 American newspapers has yet to find in some 17 years of the Web era.
— A paywall is an all-or-nothing proposition.
This is false, of course. The meter model preserves almost all traffic—and thus, ad revenue— by allowing casual readers to visit 10 or 20 times a month while charging core readers for access.
— If you charge online you can’t have a “digital first” strategy.
Lacy says about the Post, “But they’re one of the only great media empires actually looking for a digital solution to a digitally-created problem.” So charging on the innertubes isn’t “digital”?
— Readers never paid for news. They paid for the delivery apparatus.
Ask one of those readers whether they fork over money for the paper or for what’s printed on it.
— “The single-minded focus on paywalls is slowing the development of other solutions.”
No it’s not. It’s just the lowest-hanging fruit. Come up with some other way to make money and papers will try that too.
AUDIT PAYWALL LINK DUMP:
Confidence Game. The limited vision of the news gurus
Anti-paywall dead-enders. Why worry about evidence when you can argue against straw men?
Paywall illogic. Steve Buttry distorts our arguments—and the evidence
Owens’s straw man army. A commentator takes 10 swings at paywalls, and misses each time
Doing the Math on Online Subscriptions. What do newspapers have to lose?
What’s Murdoch Up to with Google and WSJ.com? Google traffic is worth far less than $15 per user per month
Loyal Readers and Junk Traffic. The bottom 75 percent of newspaper Web visitors provide just 14 percent of page views
Newspaper Readers Buy Papers for the Content. You’d think that would be obvious. Plus, the Walter E. Hussman Jr. Theorem
The Chasm Between the Value of Print and Web Readers. A person buying the paper brings twenty times the revenue of an online reader
The New York Times Paywall Looks Good. Leaky enough to preserve traffic and ads, but strong enough to add incremental revenue
NYT Paywall to Other Papers: “Copy Me!” There’s no excuse for other publishers not to follow the Times’s model
The WaPo Ombudsman’s Faulty Paywall Analysis. The NYT’s meter is saving or adding more than $70 million in revenue a year already
The NYT’s paywall overtakes digital ads. Meantime, the Globe’s drag on the Times, quantified
The Washington Post Co.’s Self-Destructive Course. Dividends, share buybacks, and an anti-paywall stance help bleed the paper dry
The hamster wheel vs. the quality imperative. The real problem with JRC/Advance free model and the unappreciated benefit of a paywall
Lessons from The Dallas Morning News’s failed paywall. The paper shuns the meter model and flops