Thoughts from the top

First, allow me to briefly introduce myself to First Draft readers: I’m Mike Rose, a young journalist calling Austin, Minn., home and, in a week, an attendee of the SPJ’s Summer Reporters Institute. Along with Nate Miller, I will be doing some blogging during the institute, trying to provide some good tidbits of journalism knowledge. I encourage you to check it out.

Now on to some food for thought: I recently read this MinnPost Q and A (written by Minnesota Daily alum and all around good guy, David Brauer. For the record, I’m a Daily alum, too) with the Star Tribune’s CEO, Mike Klingensmith. Brauer and Klingensmith touch on a number of subjects, but the one I wanted to highlight for this forward-thinking blog is the idea of paywalls. As the name implies, a paywall would make some editorial content restricted to free loading readers. Klingensmith’s concept is that those who do want to ante up for “better” content can do so and pay accordingly. This “metering” idea would allow those looking for only quick headlines to browse for free, but would make the newspaper some money when readers view exclusive investigations and the like.

That, of course, is the theory behind the idea. But would it actually work, especially in a two paper area like the Twin Cities, where the competition (the Pioneer Press) could remain 100 percent free? Klingensmith seems to think so, but I’d love to hear what YOU think. Is this a viable option for newspapers looking to figure out the online enigma?

P.S. Part II of the Q and A is here, if you’re interested.

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  • Scott

    A classic academic debate, Mike, one that will be beaten to death even more than it already has. I take the Steve Buttry approach on this: Trying to “focus on the Web” now is coming to the table WAY too late. It’s like showing up for Thanksgiving dinner after Christmas Eve’s turkey is already turned into next-day soup. Buttry says get mobile right. Newspapers already squandered monetizing the Web. I tend to agree.

    (See )

    Now, on to your use of “free loading reader.” I know you’re invoking the sentiment of the discussion from MinnPost, but that’s exactly the sentiment the “holier than thou” part of the industry needs to strike from its vocabulary. That’s the Murdoch approach. Say what you will about his politics — that’s besides the point. What he says about the public is far more worrisome. It’s not an “us” versus “them” issue. And throwing up a paywall or some semblance thereof is not a fix for what plagues newspapers or other news outlets. If you want to further alienate the public — the “free loading readers” — then go ahead and try. But once the free loaders learn how you think of them, they’ll find their news and information from sources that actually value their input and ideas.

  • Scott,

    I appreciate the feedback. Let me first note that my reference to “free loading” readers was meant simply as sarcasm, not as a judgment of anyone. I understand as much as anyone the problems of having a news organization feel superior to the public. The news organization is, in many aspects, a representative of the public, and as such, should be treating citizens as valuable peers.

    To your point about giving up on monetizing the Web and focusing on mobile devices: While I agree that effort should be spent trying to figure out the mobile market, I don’t think the Web can simply be ignored. There is still a lot of unknowns with the Internet, and there are opportunities for a news organization to experiment with news — and possibly profitable — ideas. The Web shouldn’t be the only focus (I agree that’d be like your turkey example), but it should be part of a many-pronged approach that includes mobile devices.

    Just my two cents. Thanks again for the feedback.


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