Asheville Citizen-Times’ paywall starts July 1

In February, Forbes Magazine reported that Gannett — the company that owns the Asheville Citizen-Times, USA Today and many other media outlets — would start charging for access to its digital content.

Two years ago, Xpress noted that, in an apparent test run, Gannett implemented pay walls for three of its publications: the Tallahassee Democrat, The Greenville (S.C.) News and The (St. George, Utah) Spectrum.

In Dec. 2011, local blogger (and C-T staffer) Ashvegas/Jason Sandford said that pay walls were likely for the local paper.

Today, June 20, Citizen-Times Publisher Randy Hammer said the new system will start July 1: “People who do not subscribe to the Citizen-Times will have limited access to our content on smartphones, tablet devices and website. …

Nonsubscribers will be able to view 10 news items a month before they will be prompted to subscribe. [But] We will not limit access to significant breaking news stories, like natural disasters, election results or school closings that happen as a result of snowstorms. These stories will not count against the limit. …

We also are increasing the price of our subscriptions. A letter to our subscribers is being mailed this week with details about the new rates and bundles. …

Deciding to limit free access to our digital content has been a hard decision. … because of changes and struggles in the newspaper and media industries, many news organizations find it necessary to start charging for content. …


Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

0 thoughts on “Asheville Citizen-Times’ paywall starts July 1

  1. bsummers

    Again with the pretense. Nowhere in this article does Mr. Hammer use the words “Gannett” or “directed by our corporate owners” or “decision was handed down to us”. Here’s the announcement in the Forbes article in February:

    “Gannett, the nation

  2. Dionysis

    Barry nailed this one before I had a chance; the same script, acting as if the local paper had any say-so at all in this decision. I guess it’s tough being a publisher or editor of a local paper owned by a corporation, going through the disingenuous motions of acting as if there was any autonomy.

    As a practical matter (correct me if I am wrong), but papers everywhere, including the AC-T, have been losing subscribers in droves. I recall about 14 months or so ago, I was coming out of a grocery store one Sunday, and a fellow with the newspaper was trying to give them away. Literally. And no one wanted to take one.

    Yep, try and make up declining sales revenue by charging more for fewer people to read (mostly) fluff; lots of ‘celebrity’ bilge, silly pap by local ‘columnists’, Bele Chere and beer updates and other such vitally important material.

    Sign me up. After my lobotomy.

  3. bsummers

    The main reason the newspaper industry is suffering so badly isn’t because of online competition, etc. It’s because for the past couple of decades, the owners of newspapers have demanded ever higher profit margins. It used to be considered a thriving concern if a newspaper earned a 12 – 15% return. Today, anything less than 20% profit margin gets your head on the corporate chopping block. Just ask former Gannett managers.

    So, they cut back on content that costs money to produce, like real reporting on real issues. Local readers notice that there isn’t anything in the paper that they can’t get in USA today or a local free weekly, so why buy it?

    But misleading the readers about who controls the paper, like Randy Hammer has done twice now, that’s a serious violation in my book.

  4. Dionysis

    “But misleading the readers about who controls the paper, like Randy Hammer has done twice now, that’s a serious violation in my book.”

    If the AC-T was a serious newspaper, this would have more significance and be more troubling. I don’t like to see any publication fail, but it is hard to believe that this move will shore up their balance sheet. IMO, the fundamental flaw in this change is the underlying assumption that what they offer is worth paying for.

    I noticed that Hammer did not inform readers as to the amount or percentage of increase. I guess they have to subscribe to find out that ‘news’.

  5. bsummers

    “I guess it’s tough being a publisher or editor of a local paper owned by a corporation”

    After the Facebook-commenting story, I searched other Gannett papers. Of the papers where I could find any story at all, the AC-T was alone in pretending that shifting to FB-only commenting was a local decision. Most of the others simply reprinted the stock Gannett press release, which was neutral on whose decision it was, and a very few revealed it was handed down from corporate. There were a handful that trotted out the stories of the ____ who had died in the ____, and how hard it was for ____ to endure those nasty comments in the old comment zone. But Randy Hammer stood head & shoulders above the 80+ Gannett papers in telling their readers how great & hard a decision it was for the AC-T staff to finally restrict those comments to Facebook.

    Baloney – just like this paywall change, it was ordered by corporate, on a schedule issued by corporate. Why would you lie to your readers about who’s in charge of the newspaper?

  6. Dionysis

    Mr. Hammer claimed in his article that “for 15 yeaers” paying newspaper subscribers have “subsidized” people those getting ‘free’ content on-line, and that “for the past 15 years, a lot of our subscribers have said that wasn

  7. Margaret Williams

    Meanwhile, BlogAsheville has noted there are more than 50 comments on the C-Times site about the pay wall move

  8. bsummers

    And I skimmed those comments an hour or so ago, and so far not one person had seemed aware that this was fully corporate-dictated, nationwide decision, not just AC-T. Typical:

    “Once again ACT management puts another nail in their coffin… smart move ACT management”

    IMHO, this is a serious betrayal of your responsibilities to your readers – pretending that you’re in charge and responding to local issues & readers complaints, when in fact you’re just following the orders in the latest corporate memo, same as 80 other Gannett employees across the country.

  9. bsummers

    130+ comments on the AC-T paywall issues so far. Still nobody aware that the change was ordered by Gannett for all their newspapers, or that the expressed purpose of it is simply to provide “sizable dividends” to their major investors:


  10. Dionysis

    “… most of the readers will believe it.”

    You’re probably right, but a few dozen believers (my guess as to how many dedicated readers they will have left) is pretty insignificant. They would be the ones willing to pay to read Susan Reinhardt and the ‘beer guy’ anyway.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.