Three Gannett newspapers recently debuted pay walls, including one close to WNC — the Tallahassee Democrat, The Greenville (S.C.) News and The (St. George, Utah) Spectrum. Pay walls block free access to a publication, requiring viewers to pay first, read later. Is the Asheville Citizen-Times next?
The move is a “small-scale test,” according to Bill Mitchell, a former newspaper editor and now a faculty member of the Poynter Institute (a St. Petersburg, Fl., based school for journalists). Mitchell, who blogs about trends in journalism, mentions a conversation he had with Kate Marymont, vice president of news for Gannett’s Community Publishing Division. Marymont told him, “We want to test the idea that our journalism is more of a service than a product, and that we should give readers a selection of delivery methods.”
Mitchell also chatted with Bob Gabordi, a former Citizen-Times editor who’s now the executive editor for the Tallahassee newspaper. The Florida publication’s pay wall went up July 1, charging visitors $9.95 per month or $2 for a day pass. Print subscribers — who already pay for home delivery — simply have to create an online account to get past the pay wall.
After providing some details about the Gannett “test,” Mitchell concludes:
At first glance from afar, the three pay walls in question appear more like blunt instruments than nuanced lab experiments.
Gabordi … told readers this week that the site generated 14 million page views in June, a number certain to drop as a result of the all-or-nothing pay wall.
A screen grab about the move also notes, a bit ironically, “The article explaining the pay wall in St. George is now behind the pay wall.”
For Mitchell’s full blog, visit Poynter Online.