Home > Industry stuff, Technology > Black Press subscriber papers go to pay wall

Black Press subscriber papers go to pay wall

March 28, 2012

Black Press has followed an increasing number of newspaper publishers around North America and instituted a pay wall to access online content for those of its papers that aren’t free.

The pay wall hasn’t descended on every one of its subscription papers (Salmon Arm Observer and Trail Daily Times content, for two is still free.)

But other papers, like the Ladysmith Chronicle, are already behind the wall. Click on some of the Chronicle’s stories and you get redirected to a screen that says:

Welcome to ladysmithchronicle.com

The content you are trying to access requires a subscription.

If you are already a print subscriber, this online access is part of your subscription. Just click on Register and then Activate Digital Add On on the next two screens to activate the online portion of your subscription.

If you are not a current subscriber, you can create an account and purchase a Print and Digital Subscription or Digital Only Subscription on the next page.

Click Help for further assistance.

Thank you.

Black Press has posted a FAQ about its paywall. Here are the three most interesting Qs and As:

Q: Why has the paper chosen to make some of its content “Premium Content?”

A: Like any business, we need to price our product in such a way that we can continue to provide the level of quality to which our customers have grown accustomed. Maintaining our staff of talented local journalists, sales people and designers would not be possible without subscription fees. This also corrects an anomaly that’s existed for years – where our print subscribers paid to read our stories, which were available online free. This properly recognizes the value all our subscribers place on our content.

Q: Will the entire site require a subscription?

A: No, much of the content on our site will still be free, including: breaking news, calendar, and all facets of provincial coverage. Subscriptions are required to access our in-depth local news, sports, opinions and features.

Q: Can I buy a subscription on the website?

A: Yes. You can pay for delivery of our print edition plus online access, or just the online access quickly and easily through our site.

more…

This strikes me as a good, easy move that should have been made long ago. While there is an argument to be made for a paid paper in a large city to offer its content for online for free (particularly if it has free competitors), it seems stupid to do so in a small community where you already charge for your paper and where you have no free competition. This will again reinforce the need for Salmon Arm and Trail residents to go out and buy their local paper. While I guess it could hurt online advertising, that’s still a small slice of revenues compared to the money made from ads in the print editions of those not-free papers. In a community like Ladysmith, nobody is going to be able to make money running a free online news site—at least not for many years.

Now will Glacier follow suit with some of its papers? The Prince George Citizen seems to hold back much from its paper editions, but some of the smaller subscription papers still post much, if not all, of their content online.

P.S. If anybody at those papers has an opinion, please weigh in. Also, if, in a couple months, somebody could forward me pre-paywall and post-paywall subscription numbers, or email me about how a paywall affects their subscriptions, it would be much appreciated.

Good idea? Bad idea? Leave a comment.

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  1. Michaela
    March 29, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    I think the pay wall is a good idea for my paper (the Similkameen Spotlight in Princeton) because we don’t have much competition in town. There is another weekly paper though.
    In a lot of cases there is no other way to get the news than in our newspaper or on the website, so I think some people will pay for the esubscription.
    Right now, most of the content is already posted online by the time the paper comes out, so people who use the Internet don’t have much incentive to buy the paper.

  2. Anonymous
    March 29, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    I’m not sure there are enough papers in the very small town/free competition/paid paper matrix that I haven’t identified myself already. But it is a situation that exists out there.

    That being said I think you’re right that giving something to web savvy people for free while forcing people who don’t own a computer to pony up $1 is pretty weird.

  3. Anonymous
    March 29, 2012 at 10:45 am

    “it seems stupid to do so in a small community where you already charge for your paper and where you have no free competition.”

    That’s a pretty big assumption to make about the circumstances of some of the papers slated for paywall.

    • March 29, 2012 at 11:06 am

      That is a pretty big assumption to make, which is why I qualified the statement. Some of the papers may be located in larger communities with free competition (although I’m not sure which places we’re talking about. Please fill me in). In such a case, then a pay wall is more questionable. But even in those cases, I think that if you’re charging for your paper, a pay wall still makes sense.

  4. Geoff
    March 28, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    I’m still on-the-fence on this one, but just had some information to share. Local ‘print’ papers are facing increasing, web-only competition, even in the Kootenays.

    For instance, the Lone Sheep publishing group has a number of online papers, including: http://www.RosslandTelegraph.com, http://www.CastlegarSource.com, http://www.TrailChampion.com and http://www.BoundarySentinel.com... some of them reporting impressive readership numbers.

    Other online papers in the Kootenays include http://www.News.InTheKoots.com and http://www.e-Know.ca.

    Just thought I’d pass those along for those who weren’t aware of their existence.

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