October 2009


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Harlingen newspaper to start charging for online news

1:35 PM Mon, Jul 13, 2009 |
Posted by: Walt Zwirko

Later this week, the Valley Morning Star newspaper in Harlingen will begin charging visitors to its Web site 75 cents a day (or $3.95 a month) for full access to its news content.

“It will allow greater value to our many loyal print-edition subscribers by not giving away the news to non-subscribers,” the newspaper’s publisher, Tyler Patton, said in the story announcing the shift away from free Web access (although subscribers to the print edition will not have to pay).

This is an understandable move for the newspaper industry, which is struggling to maintain print circulation when news consumers have so many other options online and in the electronic media. It is a business model that’s certain to be studied closely by both newspapers and other online content providers.

So far, The Wall Street Journal seems to be the only major newspaper that’s been able to make a subscription plan stick. Similar to the Valley Morning Star’s plan, the Journal offers free access to the home page but requires a subscription to view the full range of its content, which is widely regarded as top-notch business journalism.

The Valley Morning Star will likely suffer an inevitable decline in online readers as a result of its pay-for-news plan; the question is whether revenue from subscribers to the electronic edition will compensate for that loss. And the number of subscribers will be directly linked to whether there are other, comparable sources of free local news online in that market.

For a time, The Dallas Morning News offered a subscription-based section of Cowboys-related news, a model that it later abandoned.

The reality of the situation is that Internet users like you are accustomed to things being free. It’s an ad-supported model that was established by radio and television decades ago and has been the hallmark of the Internet since its inception.

It’s always surprising to me when I have to answer e-mails and phone calls from users who complain about advertising on our site. I try to explain to them that I’d be unable to reply if I wasn’t getting a paycheck, and our only source of online revenue (at least right now) is advertising.

So what do you think? Would you be willing to pay for local news online from a newspaper (or a television station)?


I somewhat symphathize with the plight of traditional newsprint media outlets such as the Dallas Morning News and the other paper, uh — no, not the Observer. Yeah, the Star Telegram.

First, I don’t fully sympathize because I blame them for ignoring and then being slow to react to the internet, and the revenue threat that sites like eBay and Craigslist posed to them. Hindsight is 20/20 for sure. (I still can’t believe people pay for classified ads in the DMN!?)

But I value the content and more importantly the investigative reporting oversight that the Dallas Morning News provides to us as citizens. If it weren’t for the DMN news team…
How much corruption would continue undetected? How many injustices would have gone unpunished?

I don’t know anything about how revenue sharing works within the media outlets, how much they pay for news dug up by another organization? But I see/hear a lot of news on the TV and Radio that could not have been presented as content by these media outlets without the investment by print media. DMN should be extracting more for the value they deliver to these other media outlets. Or let these media outlets make their own (increase for WFAA) investment in investigative reporting. When “The Ticket” quotes ESPN for a news story, will that suffice? They shouldn’t be able to say a word without paying ESPN for the news, IMHO. It’s like software, music, and video licensing — intellectual property.

When I encounter a site that wants me to pay for the news, I first search for the same news from a free site.

Like the Harlingen paper, I’d would expect a free subscription to DMN online content because I am a weekly subscriber. But I would rather the Harlingen paper also offer a “by the drink” payment option that allow me to easily pay (i.e. PayPal) for a single article for $2.95. I think that is what the Austin American Statesman did a few years ago. And I paid for a few of those.

I should mention that pay Consumers Union for two separate subscriptions — their monthly magazine and their online content. I’m willing to pay that because I value both delivery vehicles.

I understand a need for revenue,but what is annoying is the intrusion of “pop up” Or Pop Under” ads blanketing what I am trying to read on the WFAA site. I see plenty of ads on the bottom, top and to the side. I can only surmise things will get worse when tuning in John McCaa has “breaking news: and soon as one sentence is out they go to a commercial.

Interesting Blog. You should feature your services/products on the Harlingen community, classifieds section.

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